Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Movie Review: The Swiss Family Robinson

Title: The Swiss Family Robinson
Author: N/A
Genre: Adventure, romance, animals, family
My Rating: *****
Official Rating: G
Age Group: 6+

Caught in a storm, a family from Switzerland traveling to New Guinea is shipwrecked and forced to live on a deserted island with all sorts of animals. They fight for survival, grow closer, and deal with pirates. But when the two oldest sons rescue a girl, things start to fall apart. As if that isn't enough, the pirates are back.

Word of Warning
  • Countless deaths of pirates (none of which are graphic or seen up close). They are stabbed by the sword, shot by arrows, blow up by gunpowder, shot with guns, attacked by a tiger, tossed over cliffs, hit with falling logs and rocks, and various other small things.
  • Francis is mischievous and always getting into trouble, and danger. He is scolded briefly and lightly and does not seem to regret his adventures. He encounters a tiger and almost falls out of a tree, among other things.
  • The movie starts with a ship in a storm and people struggling to save themselves, screaming for help. When the storm is over and the family escapes the ship, they do not find any survivors. It is not clear what happened to the others (death by drowning or simply escaping on smaller boats).
  • A few fist fights between brothers, often because of a girl (who does not encourage the fighting).
  • Fritz and Ernst both try to win the love of Roberta, often with sweet gestures and a helping hand when possible. Roberta, for her part, doesn't seem to know who to go with. At one point in the movie, it's clear she chooses Fritz, but she still is a bit too nice to Ernst, probably leading him on unintentionally.
  • Fritz and Roberta share two almost-kisses (they do kiss, but it's clearly cut short), then two real ones, and finally one longer one. They plan to stay behind and it is implied that they'll get married, though that might be a challenge without a priest around. Still, it is suggested that others will join the shipwrecked family on the island, so this may not be a problem.
  • Fritz and Ernst fight with a giant snake in the water, nearly drowning.
  • Roberta shoots at Ernst. Ernst, for his part, throws rocks at her. This is before he knows she's a girl.
  • Roberta's grandfather has her dress up as a boy for fear the pirates will know she is a girl. Later, when the pirates come looking for her, Roberta suggests she turn herself over to protect the shipwrecked family. Fritz objects, saying she doesn't look like a boy anymore, and she knows what they will do to her as a girl. She tears up but still insists it would be better than anything the family would suffer. Fritz is angry and refuses to listen to such talk. Nothing beyond that is explained, everything is implied, and the younger audience completely misses the point.
  • When Roberta is still disguised as a boy, Fritz and Ernst are a little hard on her. When they tell her to take her clothes off to cross a river, she decides she's had enough and refuses. Soon after they discover (by pulling off her hat, and a quick wrestling match) that she's a girl, and things change dramatically.
  • Various minor cuts and scrapes shown with fake blood.
  • Father, Fritz, and Ernst spend much of the movie without shirts on, working hard outside in the sun.
The Good
This movie deserves one of these.
  • The family dynamics are beautiful. Support, love, and trust are shown continually. All the men (including little Francis) show extra respect for their mother, who is the only woman on the island (until Roberta comes along).
  • The parents of the family portray a beautiful and strong marriage on-screen, supporting each other, speaking softly, sharing tender moments, and just being there. This was incredibly refreshing, especially considering what most movies now show.
  • The bond between the brothers (Fritz, Ernst, and Francis) is fun to watch and rather wholesome. There is barely any bickering, and even when Fritz and Ernst butt heads when it comes to Roberta, they still seem to respect each other and remain friends. A hard thing to balance, but balanced well in this movie.
  • The instant Fritz and Ernst realize Roberta is a girl, their treatment of her changes dramatically. They're more gentle, they help her along, and they speak softly to her. While it can get some of the audience laughing because it's almost over the top, the beauty in their actions and the instant change in respect and treatment of Roberta is far too wonderful to be overlooked.

My Thoughts
Who doesn't want to watch a great adventure that focuses on a great family? Honestly, the scenery and the animals would be enough to make me watch the movie, but throwing in such a beautiful portrayal of a true family just makes everything ten times better. Add to that the fundamentals shown here (chivalry, a strong marriage, friendship among brothers, etc), and there really aren't many reasons not to watch the movie.
Best of all? It's appropriate for the whole family, and makes for a great movie night.

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