The Wild Life, Blu-ray (2016)

by | Nov 14, 2016 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

Another great animated family feature, this one from Belgium.

The Wild Life, Blu-ray (2016)

English Voice-overs: Matthias Schweighöfer, Kaya Yanar, Ilka Bessin, Dieter Hallervorden, Aylin Tezel
Director: Vincent Kesteloot
Studio: Studiocanal/ Summit/ Lionsgate (11/29/16) [2 discs, Blu-ray & DVD]
Video: 2.40:1 HD 1080p color
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1
Subtitles: Spanish
Extras: A Wild World: Making The Wild Life, Meet the Characters, Tips for Your Trip, The Wild Life Musical Adventure, Previews
Length: 91 min.
Rating: ****1/2

In spite of the title, this is generally the story of Robinson Crusoe, but from the viewpoint of the animals on the island where he is shipwrecked. The voices are just perfect, especially Matthias Schweighofer as Crusoe and Ilka Bessin as the large (compared to the other animals) female tapir. The guy playing the voice of the near-sighted old goat is pretty good too – he really sounds like a goat might. Everything is larger than life and the animals rule on the little island until a furious storm, and Robinson Crusoe is deposited there as the only survivor (with his dog Aynsley) of the pirate ship on which he was held. At first the animals (except for the macaw) really fear him and everything about him and the wrecked ship.

This is a wonderful collaboration that originated in Brussels, with a soundtrack performed by the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra, and all the sound was also mixed in Brussels.  (They always record the voices first thing for animated films.) The Belgians and French are beginning to give Pixar a run for the money as the leading inventors of creative animated films in the world. It was created in 3D, but that version is not being distributed in this country. Perhaps if you have a deck with PAL support you can find one.

Other animal characters on the island are a little armadillo-type and a cute tiny hedgehog, voiced by a lady whose natural voice really is that high and small-sounding. There is also a gecko or lizard of some sort and a nay-saying little king-fisher bird. But the main featured animal is Mak, who Crusoe calls Tuesday because he lands on the island on a Tuesday (instead of being called Friday like the original). Being a macaw/parrot-type this bird can talk with Crusoe; he wants very much to get off the island and see the world.  There are also two embittered villainous cats who make various attempts to take over the island and make the humans pay for the bad treatment they have received. The female has kittens eventually and they all proceed to attack Crusoe and the other animals.

The animals on the island finally decide to help Crusoe build the tree house he is trying (and failing) to build. But due to the cats there is a big fire, and it attracts the attention of some other pirates led by Long John Silver who take Crusoe hostage. He gets away and makes his way back to the island while the cats are stuck with the pirates. Mak helps rescue Crusoe and gives up his idea of wanting to explore the world, as does Crusoe, and the animals help him to build a new treehouse. A woman is also washed ashore. Stay for the credits – they’re great fun and you will learn more.

—John Sunier

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