The Robinson family is moving to New Guinea. Unfortunately, their ship hits a bad storm on the way and they end up shipwrecked near an island whose existence is apparently known to no one. Not one to sit by and wait for a rescue that isn’t coming, Mr. Robinson takes charge of his wife, three sons, and the myriad of animals that the fleeing crew has left behind. They make their way to shore with as much off the ship as they can.
This 1960 adventure movie chronicles their escapades as they struggle to live not only on a subsistence basis, but with makeshift comforts of home. Father is, of course, extremely clever and handy. Mother, of course, makes things lovely. The three boys are Fritz, the eldest who is “all boy”; Ernst, the pompous scholar and middle child; and the very ingenious Francis, played by Disney studio darling, Kevin Corcoran (Old Yeller).
The best acting in the film comes from a young James McArthur (Dano of Hawaii-50) as Fritz. He plays the part with assuredness, strength, and humility. While the absence of any of the five members of the Robinson family would be missed, the film would fall without his character for the others to play off of. He is the center of struggle, and many brothers will likely recognize themselves in him.
Swiss Family Robinson is a long movie at two hours and four minutes. Children may want to take a break in the middle, or they may be anxious to get to the pirate scene (especially if they’ve seen it before). Through ingenuity and resourcefulness, the Robinsons must defend themselves against a whole boatload of pirates. The battle scenes are not Pirates of the Caribbean, but the Rube-Goldberg traps and contraptions are interesting and exciting.
It’s the ultimate “Family Values” movie, made when that’s what Disney stood for. The first thing they do when landing is pray together. The family roles are clear-cut, with Dorothy McGuire playing the very feminine mother, and Sir John Mills as the definitely masculine father. Sibling rivalry is wrestled out, but the boys usually get along. Bad guys are more likely to be knocked over or run away from than shot, there’s some light romance, and it has a happy ending. It’s a happy feel-good film, and I heartily recommend it.
Julie’s Rating: 4 stars —
MPAA Rating: G —
Cautions: Light pirate violence —
Appropriate for: All