NEW YORK (CNS) — Daniel Defoe is spinning in his grave.

The English author’s celebrated 1719 novel “Robinson Crusoe,” which set the standard for thrilling, realistic adventure fiction, has morphed into a 3-D animated kiddie comedy called “The Wild Life” (Summit).

Needless to say, this Franco-Belgian production, co-directed by Vincent Kesteloot and Ben Stassen, only pulls a few strands from Defoe’s story. A sailor named Crusoe (voice of Matthias Schweighofer) is shipwrecked and washes ashore a deserted island. There he finds, not cannibals, but a wide array of exotic (and exceedingly loquacious) birds, reptiles and mammals.

“The Wild Life” tells the story from their point of view. The narrator is Mak (voice of David Howard), an exuberant parrot who finds life in paradise rather mundane. The human’s appearance is an opportunity for knowledge and adventure.

Crusoe, in turn, adopts Mak and christens his new companion, not “Friday” as in the novel, but “Tuesday.”

Mak is relieved. “At least it’s not Monday,” he says. “Everybody hates Mondays.”

As Crusoe builds a treehouse and learns to “talk,” Doctor Dolittle-like, to the animals, danger lurks in the shadows. Two feral cats (voices of Debi Tinsley and Jeff Doucette) survived the shipwreck and are now fixated on island domination.

Silliness (and occasional sassiness) aside, the animation in “The Wild Life” is first-rate and messages about friendship and courage are worthy. A few action scenes of shipwreck and feline mayhem may frighten the littlest ones, but overall it’s good, clean fun.

The film contains a few mildly scary action sequences. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.


McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.