For a while there, some people were really worried about the Disney cartoons. The boring "Pocahontas" and not-for-kids "Hunchback of Notre Dame," while lauded by some, were generally not well received, and many people began to think that the Disney animation arm, which was only rejuvenated eight years ago with "The Little Mermaid," was beginning to fall apart again. Were we again doomed to watch things only as good as "The Black Cauldron" and "The Fox and the Hound"?Fortunately, "Hercules," which opens Friday, shows that the answer is no. "Hercules" is a throwback to the good ol' days of "Aladdin" -- funny, fast-paced, with references to everything from "The Karate Kid" to "I Love Lucy," and some dead-on satire of merchandising, mass-marketing, and the icons we falsely consider to be "heroes."
"A delightful return to form"
Part of the charm of this movie is that Hercules is such a rare item: A three-dimensional, sympathetic MALE character in a Disney cartoon. Quasimodo and Beast were sympathetic characters, but only in a freakish sort of way, and we never saw much of Aladdin's feelings. Hercules, with his bouts of isolationism and loneliness, seems so human and so real. He seems like a guy you could get to be pals with, someone so nice that he would never crush your skull with his bare hands, even though he could.
Most of the singing is done gospel-style, which is fine, but gospel isn't very imaginative or creative, music-wise. This means that instead of having three or four great, hummable songs (remember all the good stuff in "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aladdin"?), there are maybe two.
I really like "Go the Distance," the inspiring, I'm-gonna-make-it-someday song young Hercules sings, but Michael Bolton's version over the closing credits ruins it. Not only is it the worst part of the movie, it's also the worst crime ever perpetrated against humanity.
Three things make this a particularly original Disney movie: The characters are drawn stylishly, rather than realistically; there are TWO two-parents families, with no deaths among them; and the villain is more funny than scary.Furthermore, the theme, as stated by Zeus in the movie, is the best yet: "Being famous is not the same as being a true hero." In this day of over-blown basketball stars and false celebrity gods, it is important that we learn what a real hero is all about. This point is well-made without being beaten into us or turned into a cliche. Overall, it adds to the general feeling of warmth and charm that defines the movie.
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originally posted: 08/08/05 17:58:56