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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 24.24%
Average: 4.55%
Pretty Bad: 16.67%
Total Crap: 3.03%

4 reviews, 42 user ratings

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Atlantis: The Lost Empire
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by EricDSnider

"The dawn of a new era for Disney animation."
5 stars

Walt Disney Pictures made billions from its string of animated musical hits in the '90s. It was a simple formula: Retell a familiar story, put in some Broadway-style songs, make sure you've got some animals blessed with the power of speech, and watch the bucks roll in.

Why mess with a good thing? Perhaps the dwindling returns on the last few -- "Hercules" and "Mulan," specifically -- inspired the folks at the mouse house to change things up. Or maybe it was a pure desire to test uncharted waters. (Probably not, but maybe.)

Whatever the impetus, "Atlantis: The Lost Empire" is nearly as great as "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aladdin," but is also utterly and completely different from them.

There are no songs and no talking animals. The villain dies at the end, like in all Disney films, but so do many others, including some good guys (non-graphically, but enough to earn a PG rating).

Sound too serious? Guess what: It's also hysterically funny, both in the silly way that appeals to kids and the smart way that makes grown-ups howl. There are even throwaway jokes, tossed out as transitional lines that have nothing to do with the central action -- the kind of jokes that take effort to write and perform well, but that need to look effortless.

Set in 1914, the film's star is Milo Thatch (Michael J. Fox), a museum linguistics expert who gets no respect from his bosses. This is in large part due to his insistence that, given the right funding, he could find the lost city of Atlantis. Seems that before his death, his explorer grandfather unearthed several clues, including a secret Atlantian diary.

Grandpa's old pal Preston B. Whitmore, an eccentric millionaire, has had the journal in safekeeping, bestowing it upon Milo now that he sees he's serious about using it to find Atlantis. With Whitmore backing the trip, Milo and a ragtag crew of explorers, specialists and psychos take a submarine voyage to the bottom of the sea.

Upon finding Atlantis (there was little doubt of that, was there?), they discover a once-glorious city now in ruins. It exists in a huge under-water air pocket, ruled by an aging king (Leonard Nimoy) who wants to keep the oustide world at bay. His daughter, Kida (Cree Summer), who soon fulfills her obligation to fall in love with Milo (some things never change at Disney), disagrees. She knows that Atlantis is dying.

Unfortunately, there are those in Milo's crew who only want to exploit Atlantis, and not learn from it. The genial Commander Rourke (James Garner) is not beyond reproach, nor is his femme-fatale assistant, Helga (Claudia Christian).

The crew also includes explosives expert Vinny (Don Novella, aka Father Guido Sarducci), a crusty cook (Jim Varney, in his last role), and a deadpan, smoke-voiced telephone operator named Mrs. Packard (Florence Stanley) -- and those are just the funniest ones. There's also a French guy who loves dirt and a grease-monkey tomboy mechanic, all adding their particular spice to the stew.

(There are some terrific scenes in which the disparate personalities have to work together, reminding audiences of similar groups in "Armageddon" and similar films. It's not parody, per se, but it indicates a knowing attitude that earns "Atlantis" a few more credibility points.)

When it moves, the film is wildly exciting, recalling the great adventure films of the past. When it's funny, it's outstandingly so. It doesn't have the emotional punch of, say, "Beauty and the Beast," but the overall combination of humor and thrills makes up for whatever it lacks in the gooey department.

Its well-developed, mystical story line may be too much for young kids to grasp, dealing as it does with Atlantis' power source and energy crystals and other things more typical in Japanese anime than American cartoons. But it may be too intense for very young children anyway. These things vary from one child to the next, but the age of 6 or 7 is probably a good cut-off. There's nothing offensive, but the fact that some characters die could be unsettling.

Frequent missteps and greedy maneuvers aside, when it wants to, Disney can still crank out a fine piece of work. "Atlantis," to coin a phrase, blows everything else out of the water.

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originally posted: 06/09/01 07:14:02
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User Comments

9/24/15 WALTER The humans look like refugees from SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS and PINOCCHIO. 5 stars
3/09/13 dr.lao Doesn't really feel like a Disney movie...but who cares?!? 4 stars
10/20/11 Magic A cynical attempt to get teenage boys to watch Disney movies. It's Stargate all over again. 2 stars
4/01/10 Fievel Best Disney offering since THE LION KING. 5 stars
3/23/10 Fievel The characters are hand-drawn similarly to those in SNOW WHITE,PINOCCHIO and FANTASIA. 5 stars
2/21/06 Quigley why bother being blasted with more Disney crap? Disney has sold out BIG TIME! 2 stars
8/18/05 ES Nonsense jeremy this is a fine and entertaining film, far better than hercules and mulan 4 stars
7/18/03 Kelli interesting, unlike most disney movies this requires intelligence! good job disney! 5 stars
7/13/03 WWE HHH-HATE CLUB this was a very good film 4 stars
4/19/03 Ubu the Ripper A worthy addition to the Disney animated canon. 5 stars
9/27/02 John McNew Stick to your song-and-dance numbers Disney, they're more fun... 3 stars
8/17/02 Andrew Patrick This PG Movie Rocks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This Movie kicks butt!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
5/26/02 Charles Tatum Better than "Shrek," but so are your home movies 4 stars
2/14/02 baby satan YOU ARE THE ONES WHO ARE THE BALL-LICKERS! 5 stars
2/11/02 Cat This was good!! 4 stars
11/01/01 Mariel Lynch This is a really good movie i don't know critics say its bad. 5 stars
10/10/01 Mark Miles Wonderful animation and somewhat inventive storyline 5 stars
10/10/01 Andrew Carden Extremly Confusing and Unexciting Cartoon. 2 stars
9/27/01 Shane Robert Myers!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My first favourite Disney film... IT RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
9/27/01 everybodiesmom very enjoyable, I really liked it and Im well over 40 4 stars
9/27/01 no one Well, I liked it. 5 stars
9/27/01 Lefty Great graphics and story held both my 4 yr old's and my attention 5 stars
9/25/01 viking You're a fool, Erik. At least it has a story to compliment the animation 5 stars
9/18/01 Alvaro Sensational Animation 5 stars
8/19/01 miyax Disney should just give up while they still have a chance 1 stars
8/05/01 Moira Best damn animated film I've seen by an American company: Intelligent, sophisticated, funny 5 stars
7/15/01 Rampage at least it beat Pokemon: The Movie 3 5 stars
7/13/01 ALEXIS this movie kick butt 5 stars
7/08/01 the scarecrow It was amusing but there were too many plot points left unanswered. 2 stars
7/01/01 Roy Smith Stargate II - The Animation Version. Plus Michael J is annoying + the animation is uneven. 3 stars
7/01/01 gloria interesting, funny, enjoyable 4 stars
6/29/01 Geebo Very enjoyable, more so than anything else in theaters right now. That girl was hott. 5 stars
6/27/01 John Y No talking animals and no silly musical numbers - What A Relief! 5 stars
6/27/01 Mario Better than Groove? No way! But worth it for the cool scenes and deep backstories. 4 stars
6/20/01 Hentai Not as good as earlier Disney classics but an enjoyable experiment. Very good on its own 5 stars
6/20/01 Jenni Beautifully drawn. Better story than most Disney films and I should know. 5 stars
6/17/01 Michael pretty good 4 stars
6/17/01 Anne For a kid's movie pretty good. But didn't you have the feeling it was missing heart? 4 stars
6/17/01 Coda Only worth the throw-away jokes, which is a bad sign. Maybe the toys will be cool. 3 stars
6/16/01 J Sorry Erik but I am going with Eric on this one. A very excellent movie. 5 stars
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  15-Jun-2001 (PG)


  20-Sep-2001 (G)

Directed by
  Gary Trousdale
  Kirk Wise

Written by
  Tab Murphy

  Michael J. Fox
  Jim Varney
  James Garner
  John Mahoney
  Leonard Nimoy
  Don Novello

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