LT. ROBIN CRUSOE U.S.N.
(directed by Byron Paul, 1966)
** (out of 5)
> I well recall seeing and loving this movie as a callow 9 year old boy, when every Disney film, live action or animated, was a real event. Clearly, I was a lot easier to please as an inexperienced child.
. As a big fan of adventure stories in general and Dick Van Dyke in particular, I just ate up this overtly ridiculous silliness like a big bowl of Captain Crunch. Unfortunately, now that I am an adult- the film is about as palatable as the sugary poison cereal. It’s a “modern day” retelling of the classic shipwreck story, updated to place a downed Navy airman on a remote tropical island for a year of his life, during which he makes three companions: an impossibly perceptive and communicative chimp who is a refugee from the U.S. space program, a talking mynah bird (obviously mechanical) and a gorgeous Polynesian beauty (played by a fetching Michele Kwan) who acts as a stand-in for his man “Friday” in the original book.
. Van Dyke has an over-the-top drunk scene that appears to be the genesis of most of my clichés on the subject. Almost 10 years after seeing the film, I gave a very bad audition using the drunk scene from James Thurber’s THE MALE ANIMAL, and since I had never been drunk to that point, I aped this truly bad performance. (And no- I didn’t get the part.) Throw in some lunacy about tribal headhunters and a large gaggle of disfavored native beauties and you have a real cartoon of a movie, obviously more geared for tykes than adults. Sometimes, it is unwise to go back to the seminal films of our youth. The old maxim “you can never go home again” applies in spades. All grown up, you are just not the person you were as an innocent child.
. Still, reviewing this movie does put me back in touch with the magic I felt as a boy, ensconced in a darkened cinema letting the wondrousness of the movies wash over me and fill me with delight. Good thing that even as an old man of 60, I still feel that cinematic magic, every time I see another delightful film- and that, as Martha Stewart would say- is a good thing.
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