Swiss Family Robinson (G)
AFI Catalog; Disney Movies; Disney Wiki; IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; TCM; TV Tropes; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Disney+; Google Play; iTunes; Movies Anywhere; Vudu; YouTube
This is based on an 1812 novel, which I haven't read. The movie came out in 1960 (15 years before I was born). I think I must have (probably) first seen it in the 1980s, on The Wonderful World of Disney. But I suppose I couldn't say for sure. Nor am I sure whether I only saw it once or... more than once, in my youth. But anyway, I watched it again on DVD in 2019, on Talk Like a Pirate Day, because there are pirates in the movie. (Although they're apparently Chinese pirates, and so don't talk anything like the traditional concept of English-speaking movie pirates.) Oh, and the DVD included the 1949 short Sea Salts, which had been released theatrically with this movie in 1960.
It begins during a storm at sea. A family from Switzerland (none of whom have Swiss accents, btw) are trapped below deck, begging for someone to let them out, but apparently no one hears them. When they eventually get out on their own, after the storm, everyone else is gone. It's assumed that they abandoned ship, though I suspect it's just as likely some or all of them were tossed overboard by the storm, so the family were lucky to have been trapped. In any event, the family's name is Robinson, and they were on their way to New Guinea, having left their home to avoid the Napoleonic Wars. The father and mother refer to each other the same way their children refer to them: "Father" (John Mills) and "Mother" (Dorothy McGuire). (I'm sure that was normal enough at the time, but watching it now just makes me think of Mike Pence calling his wife "Mother," which in the 21st century is pretty weird. Then again, I think he'd be a lot happier living in the 19th century or something.) Anyway, their oldest son (the brawny one) is Fritz (James MacArthur), their middle son (the brainy one) is Ernst (Tommy Kirk), and their youngest son (the bratty one) is Francis (Kevin Corcoran). They build a raft from the wreckage of the ship, to get to a nearby island. They also bring with them a pair of Great Danes named Turk and Duke (which had belonged to the ship's captain), as well as a bunch of other animals that were in the ship's hold. Francis immediately adopted the dogs as his own, and soon begins doing the same with all the wild animals on the island. Meanwhile, Father, Fritz, and Ernst build a rather impressive home in the trees for them all. (This must have taken a great deal of time, which the movie just skips over.)
Eventually, Fritz and Ernst begin to sail around the island in a boat they'd built, to see if there's anyone else living there or if it might even be a peninsula, rather than an island. After awhile, they spot the pirates that had originally chased the ship into the storm prior to the start of the movie. And they find that the pirates have two British captives from some other ship. (It seems like only the pirate captain is the only one of his crew who speaks English. And now that I think of it, it's kind of odd that the Robinsons spoke English. I mean, I could overlook the actors' lack of Swiss accents, but still assumed the characters were really speaking German or French or something, in-universe, even if the actors were speaking English. But of course, this is not addressed at all in the movie.) Anyway, the captives are an old captain and a "cabin boy" named Bertie (who was obviously actually a girl, played by Janet Munro, whom I also know from Darby O'Gill and the Little People). Fritz and Ernst attempt to rescue both prisoners, but the pirates spot them before they can finish untying the captain, so they only manage to rescue Bertie. The boy is certain that the captain, his grandfather, will come back to rescue him after obtaining a ransom to free himself from the pirates. So he wants to stay on the beach where his grandfather would look for him, but Fritz and Ernst insist upon returning to their own family's camp, and taking Bertie with them. Eventually they realize that "Bertie" is actually "Roberta," and for the rest of the film they both spend a lot of time posturing to win her affections. (I think it's obvious that she actually likes Ernst more than she does Fritz, but... you know, "liking" is not necessarily like liking.)
So anyway, the three of them arrive back at the Robinson camp on Christmas, and all have a lot of fun together. But they also know the pirates could return at any time, so they make preparations to fight them off. And of course the movie climaxes with that battle when the pirates do finally return. And I guess that's all I want to reveal of the plot. I must say it's generally a pretty fun movie, although I thought it was somewhat sexist in a number of (mostly "chivalrous") ways. But that's understandable, given the era in which it's set. Also, while the Robinsons seem like a perfectly nice family (and in the context of watching it in 2019, I can empathize with people leaving their homeland to look for a better life elsewhere), I can't help but think that if they had reached New Guinea without mishap, they would have just become part of the European colonialists who subjugated the native inhabitants. Still, I may be overthinking something that's just meant to be a fun family adventure film.