Robinson Crusoe – Review (**)

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Though its almost invisible presence on the film calendar belies the artistry poured into its style and performances, this low-flying animated romp is fatally let down by an aggressively bland script that tears every page out of the whimsical talking animal playbook.

After a violent storm, parrot Tuesday and his animal pals find a shipwrecked human, Robinson Crusoe, washed up on their Utopian island home. Though Tuesday and Crusoe become fast friends, the rest of the animal inhabitants aren’t so easily won over, especially two vicious, plotting cats, who wish to control the island for themselves.

Credit where credit is due, on the basis of its near-total lack of marketing and no-star cast, there’s no real reason to expect much more out of this than a low-fi, glorified straight-to-video effort that somehow snuck into cinemas. Surprisingly, though, Crusoe is for the most part a sharply-animated romp; the water and animal fur in particular looks gorgeous, even if some animals admittedly look far more detailed than others, and there are moments of jerky character movement throughout.

Despite the cast being largely unknown to viewers, they’re also an entertaining bunch, committing to the fairly flat material with about as much gusto as you could ask of them. It’s just a shame, indeed, that the screenplay panders to the very youngest children while retaining none of the wit or emotional depth that would make it appealing to viewers over the age of about 7 or 8.

For one, Crusoe ends up becoming a supporting player in his own movie; the colourful, expressively-voiced animals end up stealing the show frequently, and secondly, even when the movie makes a fairly bold attempt to be mature, the shocking moment in question is glossed over without letting the audience really reflect on it. It’s as though they wanted to sneak a side order of edginess into the movie while being too afraid to fully commit to it for the sake of their pint-sized audience’s feewings.

Blandness is the real problem here; the script’s slapstick gags are low-effort, the “humour” is almost totally witless, and the plot itself so insistently repetitive that you’ll likely find yourself just focusing on the visuals or even zoning out completely as it wears on.

You probably won’t come out hating it, because it’s fine as an over-extended demo reel for the clearly talented artists who worked on this film, but that anyone would bankroll such a joylessly dull screenplay is a testament to why something so frequently beautiful has become marooned in a specialty cinema slot.

**

Robinson Crusoe is in UK cinemas now and US cinemas September 9th

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