Our review of Stranded, published April 8th, 2009, is also available.
The greatest survivor story of the year
The British Empire offers David Robinson some iron bracelets and a luxury cruise to the penal colony of Australia on the seven years to life plan. Not wanting him to get scurvy alone, the family travels along. After Ye Olde Perfect Storm, the Robinsons find themselves lost at sea. All except son Jacob, whom they entrusted to First Officer Blount when he abandoned them and ship, like the bilge rat he is. As luck would have it, Tom Hanks let the timeshare on his Cast Away island paradise lapse, and they stake a claim to it before the tourists arrive. Papa Rob sees starvation, the lack of sanitary facilities, and prickly heat as tests from God. The rest of the family sees their skeletons bleaching in the tropical sun. They befriend a native called Natuktuk, or Ator, or Calpurnia (something like that), who teaches them that life on a desert island doesn't have to be all venomous snake bites and raging dysentery, even if there are no monkey butlers. After a Norm Abrahams' crash course in bamboo prefabrication, they construct a split level tree house and plantation, complete with beasts of burden and biting flies. Over the next seven years, as the family explores the concept of boredom, Jacob is raised by Blount to become a bloodthirsty pirate, as that was his major at the Naval Academy. When fate, and the 2 hour and 30 minute mark of the movie brings everyone together again, it's a battle of wits, wills, and wooden sticks as the Robinson's stand their ground, and the cutthroat buccaneers stumble around a lot.
While this movie is called Stranded it should have really been entitled The Neverending Story. It just goes on FOREVER. At over three hours, there is plenty of time for step by step instruction on how to chop down a tree, how to eat a mango, and how to contract malaria. This is like no version of Swiss Family Robinson you have ever seen, literally. This movie borrows the classic characters and the basic plot outline, and mutates them into an odd tale of faith, survival, non-erotic male bonding, and pirate booty, set on a pre-colonial Club Med. While the acting is decent (Blount, played by Roger Allam, is a despicable standout), as characters, the Robinsons are as compelling as bleached driftwood. And the sea bandits looks like they're waiting for Adam Ant to show up and sing "Stand and Deliver." You know you're in trouble when not one, not two, but THREE characters in the film grab hornpipes and make like Zamphir for inordinately long stretches of time. The locales are indeed lovely to look at, but there is no drama, no suspense, and frankly, no reason for this film to exist. Stranded is yet another rethinking that should have stayed un-thunk. If offers nothing new in the retelling except tedium.
This DVD is the very definition of a no-frills affair. You get NOTHING here besides the movie. The widescreen, anamorphic picture is just fine: clear, colorful, and very detailed, though in a couple of scenes there is some mild artifacting. The digital sound is also good (but not surround, as the case is labeled), and proves very atmospheric in the wide-open locations utilized in the production. But with nothing else included, Stranded must stand alone on the value of its feature presentation. Unfortunately this is one episode of Victorian Survivor so lackluster, so un-involving in its plot details, characterization, and (minimal) action, that instead of being voted off the island, it should be forced to let the classic that it cannibalized have a little snack at its expense. Stranded is exactly how your patience will feel after digesting this watered down world.
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