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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Stranded (2001)

"Do you think in this world you know so much more than Fritz, more than the native, more than the rest of us? What's happening is, this family is growing up!"
- Laura Robinson (Brana Bajic)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: June 26, 2002

Stars: Liam Cunningham, Jesse Spencer, Neil Newbon, Roger Allam, Brana Bajic
Other Stars: George Costigan, Jenna Harrison, Andrew Lee-Potts, Emma Pierson, Francis Magee, Rupert Holliday-Evans
Director: Charles Beeson

Manufacturer: Wamo
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some violent and tense moments)
Run Time: 03h:02m:57s
Release Date: June 18, 2002
UPC: 707729126942
Genre: adventure

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

The tale begins with the jarring sound of a banging courtroom gavel. David Robinson (Liam Cunningham) has refused to accept the religious sovereignty of the King of England, and he now faces a lengthy prison sentence far from home. Accompanied by his loyal wife, three sons, and one daughter, David boards the dreary transport ship and faces his sentence with a devout faith in God. By a remarkable and devastating twist of fate during the voyage, their vessel enters a vicious storm that rips it apart. Marooned on a deserted island, the Robinsons must discover a way to survive in a place far removed from civilization.

Based on Johann David Wyss' classic novel Swiss Family Robinson, Stranded tackles the familiar subject matter in dramatic fashion and adds weight to a story mostly known via its light-hearted Disney film version. For this incarnation, survival is much more tenuous for the family, and their emotional issues play out with greater realism. Each individual has a distinct personality that cannot be summarized in one basic statement. Especially effective is the father David, who fights an often distressing struggle over his religious faith and control over the family. A veteran of both film and television productions, Liam Cunningham creates a powerful central figure who must evolve to deal with his growing children.

Originally created by Hallmark Entertainment as a television miniseries, this tale benefits from more extensive character development generated by the three-hour running time. Instead of simply focusing on the basic events of life on the island, director Charles Beeson is able to delve into other intriguing story lines. During the tumultuous storm, young Jacob Robinson (Andrew Lee-Potts) loses contact with his family and becomes involved with several unsavory figures. The leader of this group is Blount (Roger Allam), who takes the boy under his wing and keeps him safe. Their connection is especially compelling because a genuine level of caring does exist between these disparate characters. The devious Blount performs terrible and violent deeds, but his feelings toward Jacob are straightforward and on the level. Without the longer duration, this less-essential segment would probably face serious editing and lose its impact.

Unfortunately, this greater length also causes the events to drag early in the second hour. Once the family has reached the island and started to settle down, they spend a bit too much time trying to make sense of their situation. This leads to a near-tragic event that brings everyone together, and thankfully, starts the action moving again. Luckily, the story jumps forward seven years, and everything following this movement stays interesting, especially the climactic battle. During the skipped period, teenage boys Fritz (Jesse Spencer) and Ernst (Neil Newbon) have become men, young Sarah (Emma Peerson) has passed through adolescence, and they have constructed a giant tree house. This complicated structure definitely looks more comfortable than many modern homes, and life seems good for the Robinsons. Of course, Blount and his band of pirates are heading in their direction, and major problems loom on the horizon.

Stranded concludes with an effective battle of wills that requires all of the Robinsons' ingenuity to survive. After the slapstick efforts of pirates aimlessly attacking in the Disney version, this finale is surprisingly satisfying and believable. Jacob and Blount's last moments are especially effective, as each reveals their true ideologies while retaining an unexplainable bond. The entire cast of this feature is top-notch, with special kudos going to Roger Allam, who played Walt Disney in RKO 281, and Jesse Spencer, who gives Fritz surprising depth. Also noteworthy is the beautiful Jenna Harrison, who plays the escaped captive that catches the eyes of both Ernst and Fritz. Although not perfect, this miniseries far surpassed my expectations and is recommended for fans of the novel and other viewers just looking to lose themselves for several hours.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.77:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Stranded contains a surprising 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that surpasses my expectations of a television minseries. The bright exterior landscapes are striking, and the colors generally appear very clearly and effectively. The island's serene atmosphere is easily believable due to numerous impressive shots of scenery. There are a few moments where significant grain peaks in the picture, but they occur pretty rarely during this lengthy feature; most of them occur early on in the night sequences and dissipate in the second half. This transfer may not be perfect, but it still nicely conveys the feeling of island life in the Pacific.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Luckily, the score of this feature does not overplay itself and try to manipulate our emotions. It remains fairly simple and goes virtually unnoticed, which allows the story to shine fully. This 2.0-channel Dolby Surround track does a good job in presenting the sounds of the location. Birds chirp melodically, water flows against the beach and land animals roam through the forest on the pleasant island. This track would truly have benefited from a 5.1-channel presentation because so many sounds exist here. However, it still works impressively within a limited sound field.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: There are no extra features on this disc except for 22 chapter stops. The menus for these cues are especially frustrating due to the extremely small font and photographs for each chapter. The lack of supplements is not a major surprise given the nature of the film, but at least some minor inclusions would have been appreciated.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Although I enjoyed the Disney version of Swiss Family Robinson as a small child, its one-dimensional characters quickly become tiresome as an adult. Luckily, Stranded crafts a much deeper story that should please both adults and older kids. Strong acting and well-fleshed characters make this lengthy Hallmark miniseries a worthwhile disc. If you give it a chance, this engaging tale of survival may surprise you.


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