Genre: CG Animation
Director: Ben Stassen, Vincent Kesteloot
Cast: Ron Allen, George Babbit, Laila Berzins
Runtime: 1 hr 30 mins
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 4 August 2016
Synopsis: On a tiny exotic island, Tuesday, an outgoing parrot lives with his quirky animal friends in paradise. However, Tuesday can’t stop dreaming about discovering the world. After a violent storm, Tuesday and his friends wake up to find a strange creature on the beach: Robinson Crusoe. Tuesday immediately views Crusoe as his ticket off the island to explore new lands. Likewise, Crusoe soon realizes that the key to surviving on the island is through the help of Tuesday and the other animals. It isn’t always easy at first, as the animals don’t speak “human.” Slowly but surely, they all start living together in harmony, until one day, when their comfortable life is overturned by two savage cats, who wish to take control of the island. A battle ensues between the cats and the group of friends but Crusoe and the animals soon discover the true power of friendship up against all odds (even savage cats).
Sure, Robinson Crusoe might be best known for spending years all alone on an uninhabited island with only the birds and beasts for company, but we doubt he ever ended up making friends with them and getting them to pitch in to build his treehouse. Nor for that matter did Daniel Defoe’s classic adventure story ever have any talking animals or a pair of evil felines, but hey this cartoon from Belgium’s nWave animation house is aimed squarely at the kids. Which is also why, rather than have Crusoe himself narrate his own story, it quickly hands over those reins to a bright red parrot named Mak (voiced by David Howard), for whom Crusoe’s arrival on his South Pacific island is proof of his theory that there is a bigger world out there than he and his fellow islander friends are aware of.
The latter happens to be a motley crew comprising of a chameleon named Carmello (Colin Metzger), a tapir named Rosie (Laila Berzins), an echidna named Epi (Sandy Fox), a short-sighted goat named Scrubby (Dieter Hallervorden) and a kingfisher named Kiki (Lindsay Torrance). A storm at sea maroons Crusoe (Yuri Lowenthal) and his loyal pet dog Aynsley on the island, where the local inhabitants greet them with a mix of confusion, distrust and outright suspicion. That makes them prime fodder for two conniving cats (Debi Tinsley and Jeff Doucette) to exploit them in the hopes of a good meal and good vengeance on Crusoe and his mutt, both of which were responsible for thwarting their greedy plans from the start on board the ship.
Barring a twist that sees the cats return with their offspring after being cast away on a deserted rocky outcrop referred to as Curse Island, this is as straightforward a story – credited to Lee Christopher, Domonic Paris and Graham Welldon – as it gets, with Crusoe winning over the animals by his earnestness and eventually teaming up with them to get the better of the litter. Just as underwritten is the dialogue, which aims for witty but ends up blasé, especially as quips such as ‘just wait till I get my hooves on them’ meant to pass off as humour. Yet if you’ve seen any of nWave’s previous animations ‘Sammy’s Adventures’ or ‘House of Magic’, you’ll know that storytelling isn’t exactly their strong suite, not when we’ve seen the likes of Pixar.
Notwithstanding, directors Vincent Kesteloot and Ben Stassen are well aware that the strengths of their tale lie in its visuals, and that is where both have wisely opted to impress. Every shot looks vibrant and eye-catching, from the pastel quality-coloured backdrops (especially the sunset hues) to the action-packed final battle. In particular, the latter offers a giant man-made aqueduct transformed into a mega marble run for which the bad cats give chase to Crusoe’s animal chums. To be sure, the hijinks aren’t quite as high-energy as this dynamic conclusion though, and the middle act where Crusoe sets out to win the hearts of Mak’s friends unfortunately is rather dull to sit through.
The fact that it does pop even more in 3D is inconsequential to the Singapore release, for which only the 2D format is being screened. That said, ‘Robinson Crusoe’ is aimed and intended squarely for those below the age of 8, and we suspect the lively visuals will more than hold their attention for the duration of the film. Those hoping for a faithful big-screen treatment of Defoe’s classic might do better to sit out this one or go back to reading the novel one more time, because the thrills here are purely juvenile.
(Strictly for the kids – this dumbed-down adaptation of the classic novel that features talking animals and a pair of evil cats offers lively visuals and nothing more)
Review by Gabriel Chong