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Overall Rating
3.6

Awesome: 25%
Worth A Look35%
Average: 22.5%
Pretty Bad: 10%
Total Crap: 7.5%

2 reviews, 28 user ratings


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Hunchback of Notre Dame, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Surprisingly dark and effective Disney version."
4 stars

Time to eat some crow: Months in advance, without having seen it, I had been most unkind to 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame.' I wasn't alone in my cynicism. Disney doing Hugo? Anybody remember 'The Tall Guy,' where struggling actor Jeff Goldblum played the lead in a ludicrous Andrew Lloyd Webber-esque musical based on 'The Elephant Man'? A Disney 'Hunchback' promised to be even worse.

So now I feel like a jerk, guilty of doing to Hunchback what everyone does to Quasimodo in the movie -- ridiculing it out of ignorance. Yes, Disney is still too loud and show-bizzy. And yes, Hunchback can't go more than a reel without boisterous comic relief (here it's a trio of gargoyles, voiced by Seinfeld's Jason Alexander, Murphy Brown's Charles Kimbrough, and the late Mary Wickes). And yes, the villain -- despite his seething lust for the heroine -- is firmly in Disney's questionable diabolical-queer tradition in terms of his features and velvety sneers.

But still! After a serious misstep with the PC lecture Pocahontas, Disney has rediscovered the dark magic of the psyche. Hunchback, like The Lion King, resonates deeply for adults as well as for kids. There are moments of shocking darkness and obsession, which means that parents should prepare for long talks with younger children after the movie. Hunchback isn't "too scary for kids," as has been claimed, but it is provocative.

The basic story -- the very basic story -- remains the same. Quasimodo (voice by Tom Hulce), a deformed bell-ringer raised by the evil Judge Frollo (Tony Jay), falls in love with the fiery gypsy Esmeralda (Demi Moore). She befriends him but falls in love with the kindly, heroic soldier Phoebus (Kevin Kline). Frollo, in turn, becomes obsessed with Esmeralda; his lust for her mutates into self-denying fury.

The gifted directors, Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, also did Beauty and the Beast, another fable of tolerance. They do for Tom Hulce what they did for Robby Benson: give weight to an actor known for callow roles. They get vivid performances from Demi Moore, who is sexier here than she ever is in the flesh, and from Kevin Kline, who delivers a pitch-perfect heroic parody.

If only they could have turned the sound down a notch. Like Beauty, Hunchback is often too shrill and clamorous to be truly lyrical. The songs (by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz) are forgettable except for Judge Frollo's twisted valentine "Hellfire," a number that made me wonder if the parents sitting around me were regretting having brought their pre-schoolers. The show tunes and the clownish gargoyles (though Alexander is hilarious) keep disrupting the grim enchantment.

That's Disney for you, though: Subtlety just isn't in the Mouse's blood. Yet 'Hunchback,' for all its ready-for-Broadway razzle-dazzle, is surprisingly radical. Quasimodo may not be Disney's first physically flawed hero (Dumbo was there first), but he doesn't win Esmeralda in a bogus happy ending, either. That is one hell of an advance for Disney. For any studio, these days.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=596&reviewer=416
originally posted: 02/02/07 12:40:25
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User Comments

10/20/11 Magic So nearly a masterpiece. So nearly the best 90's Disney movie. BUT THE GARGOYLES. GAH. 4 stars
2/20/11 Zach The soundtrack from Alan Menken/Steven Schwartz is heaven to listen to. A Disney Classic. 5 stars
4/30/09 Dominic THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME is the best Disney film since CINDERELLA and SLEEPING BEAUTY. 5 stars
1/10/09 Bethany Cox One of the best disney films of the 1990s. Esmeralda pretty. Frollo best character in movi 5 stars
4/01/08 Quigley One of Disney's better recent films. Deserves to become an animated classic. 5 stars
12/11/07 SamanthaP the story is very dark, and so is the song about her burning in hell, WTF? but i love it!!! 5 stars
9/03/06 Dragon The Artist One of my favorite,childhood memories & films; the sh*t to own!!!! 5 stars
7/18/06 David Cohen Disney has done much worse 3 stars
6/20/06 Herculade Primary showpiece of traditional animation at its best. Dark and involving story keeps drw 4 stars
8/30/05 ES All I can say is that those are some damn fast archers (see when they jump off bridge) 4 stars
2/18/04 john the animation is good but the film is strangely univolving 2 stars
9/05/03 Booya That Frollo guy is twisted......it turns me on..... 5 stars
4/19/03 Ubu the Ripper Fascinating only in its accurate portrayal of greedy, immoral clergymen. 2 stars
10/18/01 Andrew Carden A Very Very Exciting and Well Animated and Created Movie, That Is At A Great Length. 5 stars
9/09/01 Butterbean Disney took a grim novel and made it into a heart warming movie. I liked it 4 stars
5/03/01 Gracy Lionheart Ugh...why? Love my book...butchered by movie...ugh. 2 stars
4/09/01 Gary This is my second favorite Disney movie of all times. KILL FROLLO! 5 stars
2/14/01 Richard Wright A good script and decent animation elevate this above the usual Disney fare. 4 stars
11/24/00 The Evil Penguin This should be kept in the attic for good 1 stars
11/04/00 Jed Not a bad disney film at all. Though it isn't uncommon disney stuff. 4 stars
10/27/00 viking The animation is nice to look at but the songs are forgettable !!! 3 stars
9/06/99 Weird Andy The Laughton and Chaney versions ride roughshod over this abortion. Read the book. 1 stars
7/22/99 Isis Dark, gothic, wonderful ... ! But are with young children (a little bit too terrifying) ! 4 stars
12/13/98 Carl Grand! Majestic! One of Disney's best animated films! 5 stars
11/30/98 MR HOLLYWOOD !! Too dark for kids....great for everyone else,bit too musical though in an unoriginal way. 4 stars
10/29/98 Silent Rob It takes place in France...need we say more? 3 stars
10/18/98 Kwyjibo Can't credit this film with anything other thanmaking my baby niece hide behind the sofa 1 stars
9/29/98 katherine Read the book. all the disney cartoons r the same. 2 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  28-Jun-1996

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Gary Trousdale
  Kirk Wise

Written by
  Victor Hugo
  Irene Mecchi
  Tab Murphy

Cast
  Tom Hulce
  Demi Moore
  Tony Jay
  Kevin Kline
  Paul Kandel
  Jason Alexander



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