Film: “Robinson Crusoe”; Directors: Vincent Kasteloot and Ben Stassen; Rating: ***
Don’t go by what you hear. Seeing is, in this case, not just believing, it is also living through an ingenious take on Daniel Defoe’s timeless saga of a shipwrecked explorer, seen here through the eyes of the animals who inhabited the island where Crusoe was thwacked.
Thank God for the power of creative re-invention. The co-directors of this colourful amiable animation film turn the Defoe classic into an artful menagerie of sinfully stress-free experiences.
“Robinson Crusoe”, a Belgian-French film titled “The Wild Life” in the US, is a great deal of fun to watch. The animals all have a specific space to themselves to function as independent entities, and their collective camaraderie is so heart-warming we know this is what we missed in “The Jungle Book”: The sense of kinship in the jungle that makes outside attack difficult.
Crusoe himself is imagined as a kind of bumbling nervous good Samaritan. His heart is in the right place. But he just can’t seem to get anything right, more so since the villainous cat couple Mel and May plan and plot poor Crusoe’s downfall.
Mel and May are for my money the sexiest avatar of evil since Manoj Bajpayee and Shamita Shetty in Dharmesh Darshan’s “Bewafaa”.
The scheming May with her hissing diabolic voice is in total control, as she commands her procreative partner Mel to wreak havoc on the tranquil island just to get even with the hapless Crusoe.
Evil designs and unsavoury mixups…the plot is structured with feline wisdom. The crux is the friendship that grows between Crusoe and a bird, Tuesday (so named by Crusoe as he found the bird on, take a guess, Tuesday). The way the two spar and steer clear of each other and then gradually become one, is a sign of compassionate writing evident everywhere in the way the animal kingdom is depicted.
Crusoe and Tuesday speak in the authoritative voices of Yuri Lowenthal and David Howard. The two actors breathe life into their characters.
The bird Tuesday longs to see the world outside the idyllic island. By the time this adorable little cinematic confection ends, Tuesday has seen enough.
We, sadly, don’t feel the same about the film. The bright and effervescent story ends all too quickly leaving us with a delectable peek into the animal kingdom which includes a charming and cute little bird named Kiki and a myopic goat who pretends to see everything.
Smoothly cut and shot with doses of endearing elan, “Robinson Crusoe” is a hearty homage to the spirit of survival and friendship. Not quite what Defoe imagined. But nonetheless, sufficiently composed and cute to make us believe what we always suspected about the animal kingdom. They talk, they judge human beings and we often fall short out of greed, the same sin of excess that this film avoids to finally emerge a heart-warming winner.
Don’t let your children miss this picturesque treat. While they enjoy the film, we don’t get a chance to be distracted either.