Swiss Family Robinson [1960]

Director: Ken Annakin
Stars: John Mills, Dorothy McGuire, James MacArthur, Janet Munro, Sessue Hayakawa
Genre: Adventure, Family
Rating: G (General Audience)
Runtime: 126 minutes

The Disney touch is all over this grand, colorful version of the Johann Wyss adventure of a European family set off for the new world of New Guinea. The film opens on a ship jostled and torn by a raging storm while a family struggles to make it through alive. Tossed into a reef near a deserted tropical island, father John Mills takes charge and the family soon turns their island prison into a veritable paradise. Their multilevel tree house, built in record time, is complete with running water and a working pipe organ scavenged from the ship, while their grand yard is abloom in English roses. As a tale of hardship and pioneer pluck, the tale is pure fantasy, but as entertainment it's energetic and appealing. The island is impossibly populated by ostriches, zebras, lions, and elephants, a private zoo that delights the youngest boy and offers plenty of comic relief. The two older brothers discover even wilder life when they rescue the prisoner of oriental pirates (led by hard-bitten Sessue Hayakawa). There's little real danger anywhere in the film--even the climactic battle with the pirates is a cartoonish affair, with coconut bombs and nonlethal booby traps, until the final desperate, deadly moments. Hardly a faithful adaptation of the novel, but a lush, beautifully photographed film and an entertaining adventure safe for all ages. Dorothy McGuire costars as the proper, worry-prone mother. (Ages 5 and older) --Sean Axmaker

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