BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Wild Life


THE SET-UP
The classic story of Robinson Crusoe is told by the animals who lived on the island with him. Features the voices of Yuri Lowenthal and David Howard.
Directed by Vincent Kesteloot

THE DELIVERY
With the shift in animation from traditional hand-drawn to CGI, the quality gap between Disney and smaller studios has closed significantly. Even an independent studio can produce a beautiful animated film that is visually on par with anything Disney/Pixar has created. The only difference is in the entertainment level. While many animated features from other studios can look just as good as Disney/Pixar, they sometimes fall just short of creating the Disney magic that captures the imagination of young and old.


The Wild Life, an animated retelling of the Robinson Crusoe story, has plenty of great moments that kids will enjoy, but they don’t necessarily combine into an overall great movie.

That’s not to say kids won’t like it. Many of them will. Visually, the film is spectacular. The quality of the animation, the character movement, and the art design are all top-notch. I personally hate how so much modern CGI animation looks choppy and rushed. It’s ugly and soulless. The Wild Life, however, looks fantastic. The ships, the seascape, and the island are all nicely animated, and look even better in high definition.

The film stays fairly faithful to the book’s premise, with the added element of a cast of animal sidekicks to inject some kid-friendly fun. There is also a gang of evil cats who serve as the film’s villains.

A parrot who befriends Crusoe serves as the narrator, as the story is told partially in flashback. It’s a smart move to tell the story from the animals’ point of view, as Crusoe himself isn’t exactly an interesting or endearing character. Thankfully the animals provide the humor, and are the most appealing part of the film.

Oddly, the animals themselves are also one of the film’s drawbacks. There are also way too many characters to keep track of. Besides Crusoe and his dog, there are seven different animals on the island that become Crusoe’s friends. They are all cute characters, but that doesn’t leave the film much time to do anything but jump back and forth between them all for assorted reactions and visual gags.


You then have to account for the gang of cats and other supporting characters. It’s a lot for kids to keep focus on and relate to. Limiting the cast to a couple of sidekicks would have served the film far better.

Especially young children may have issues with the movie, especially when one of the major animal characters dies. It seems totally unnecessary and is a particularly dark moment that may bother little ones. The lack of songs also may make it difficult for younger kids to keep their interest. In all honesty, there were a couple of times that I thought the film could have used a musical number.

I really wanted to like The Wild Life more. Despite the great visuals and fun moments, the story itself should have been more fun and interesting. Younger children may have trouble keeping interested as well. Kids from seven to ten years of age will likely enjoy it best.

VIDEO AND AUDIO

As I mentioned earlier, this film features some fantastic visuals and animation, and it looks great in high definition. There’s a great video transfer here, with outstanding detail and bold colors. The audio is a 5.1 DTS-HDMA mix, with great surround sound and clarity.


SPECIAL FEATURES

The Wild Life Blu-ray includes some nice extras that provides a decent look behind the scenes. Special features include:

“A Wild World: Making The Wild Life” featurette. The makers of the film discuss how they brought the story of Robinson Crusoe to animated life. Director/Producer Ben Strassen and various cast and crew members are interviewed. Running time: 9:23

“Meet The Characters” featurette. The voice actors discuss their characters and how they approached their roles. Running Time: 10:09

“Tips for your Trip” featurette. Using clips from the film, this fun little featurette gives tips on how to survive on a deserted island. Running time: 4:00

“The Wild Life Musical Adventure” featurette. Clips from the film are set to highlights from the film’s score. Running time: 3:15

Trailers. Trailers from other Lionsgate family films, including Shawn the Sheep and Norm of the North, are included.

Digital Copy. A digital copy code compatible with Ultraviolet and iTunes is included.


THE BOTTOM LINE: The Wild Life needed a bit more wild in it 
The Wild Life is a great-looking film, but needed more fun and jokes to appeal to younger viewers. There are some darker elements, including the death of a major animal character, that may bother younger kids. Parents may likely want to rent it before purchasing it, to give it a test run with their kids.

BLU-RAY SPECS
Release Date: November 29, 2016
Running Time: 91 minutes
Rating: PG
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish
Special Features: “A Wild World: Making The Wild Life” featurette; “Meet the Characters” featurette; “Tips for your Trip” featurette; “The Wild Life Musical Adventure” featurette; Trailers; Digital Copy.
Label: Summit/Lionsgate

Click here to order The Wild Life on Blu-ray from Amazon!


Victor Medina is a freelance writer based in Dallas. He is the editor of several websites, and his writing credits include The Dallas Morning News, Yahoo News, Cinelinx.com and SportsIllustrated.com. He has served as a Dallas County election judge and on the Board of Directors of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. You can follow him on his blog, VictorMedina.com or on Twitter at @mrvictormedina. He can be reached by email at vic@victormedina.com.

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