It’s an accepted notion that the book is always better than the movie. Which, of course, isn’t always true. Cinema and the written word are such disparate mediums that they often demand different approaches. Many times, the book is simply different than the movie, with the latter being perhaps a critique of the text or possibly a different tale that nonetheless gets the spirit of the thing correct. There’s no one way to adapt a novel or short story into a good movie. There are a lot of wrongheaded ways, of course, something The Wild Life proves. I’ve never even read the Daniel Defoe classic, Robinson Crusoe, but I promise you it is better than this movie. I say that unequivocally, since I can imagine little that’s worse than The Wild Life.
I realize that sounds like hyperbole, but I can think of fewer experiences in my life more tedious than this movie, which takes the bare bones of Robinson Crusoe and stretches it out over a 90-minute runtime. And I mean it when I say “bare bones.” The film’s two directors, Vincent Kesteloot and Ben Stassen, along with the movie’s subsequent three screen writers, understand that Crusoe (voiced here by Matthias Schweighofer) is supposed to be stranded on a deserted island, and they do make that happen over the course of the film. In order to make things more family-friendly, they also give him a bunch of wild animals to befriend. Then, over the course of endless pratfalls and a subplot about a parrot (voiced by David Howard Thornton) struggling with an existential crisis, Crusoe manages to build a tree house and is subsequently attacked by stray cats. (Yes, mangy cats are the film’s grand menace). Eventually, some pirates show up and more pratfalls happen … and this is where my head starts to hurt thinking about The Wild Life. Then the film eventually stumbles to an end.
There’s literally nothing to recommend about the film. I’ve complained before about how strange celebrity voice acting is, as if anyone is ponying up cash to hear George Clooney be the voice of a dog. But at least they’re professionals. Here, the voice acting is stiff and mawkish and a bit on the grating side, due to its overall unnaturalness. The visuals are no better — chintzy CGI stuff with a lot of color, but looking a decade too old and feeling stiff and devoid of style. And, of course, there’s that plot, which feels like the Cliff Notes of the Cliff Notes, a brain-dead opus that leads nowhere and says nothing, wrapped up in a film that’s cheap and shoddy. Rated PG for mild action/peril and some rude humor.
Now playing at Carolina Cinemark, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Beaucatcher and Regal Biltmore Grande