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The Swiss Family Robinson

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: The Swiss Family Robinson

Starring: John Mills, Dorothy McGuire
Director: Ken Annakin
Rated: G
RunTime: 128 Minutes
Release Date: December 1960
Genres: Drama, Family, Kids


*Also starring: James MacArthur, Tommy Kirk, Janet Munro, Sessue Hayakawa



Review by Brian Koller
2 stars out of 4

"Swiss Family Robinson" is an entertaining spectacle for kids through the early teen years, with excellent cinematography. However, it is too wholesome and episodic, and lacks depth.

A European family escaping the terror of Napoleon Bonaparte is shipwrecked on a lush deserted island. After narrow escapes from pirates and carnivores, they adapt and live in grand style. A teenage girl joins their clan, sparking rivalry between the two teenage boys. The pirates return and must be fought off.

The problems with the movie begin with the premise. A ship is abandoned by its crew, leaving as its only passengers a family unit. Their ship happens to wreck on an island's reefs, and that island somehow has no inhabitants but has a very wide variety of African animals.

The youngest son, impish Francis, is supposed to provide comic relief but his one-note acting performance of enthusiastic shouting is quickly tiresome. Mother (pop singer Dorothy McGuire) and Father (John Mills) are perfect parents who never lose their temper. Somehow the family constructs marvelous treetop penthouses, displaying unusual architectural and engineering talent. Where did they get the tools?

The pirates are scary but impotent. One can't help but notice the Caucasian adults are brave and heroic, while the vile and cowardly pirates are of undetermined ethnic origins.

The sibling rivalry between older son Fritz (James MacArthur) and Ernst (Tommy Kirk) is the most interesting part of the movie. One can identify with both Fritz's condescension and Ernst's desire for the respect and privileges of birthright.

Still, a lesser Disney production that sugar coats what could have been an interesting character study of adaptation and resilience.

Copyright 1996 Brian Koller

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