Review Date: May 24, 1998
Director: Ron Clements and John Musker
Writer: Ron Clements, Don McEnery, Irene Mecchi, John Musker, Bob Shaw
Producers: Ron Clements, Alice Dewey and John Musker
Tate Donovan as Hercules
James Woods as Hades
Danny DeVito as Phil
Susan Egan as Meg
Greek God Zeus's son Hercules is kidnapped by a couple of incompetent underlings of the evil Hades, accidentally placed down to Earth, and brought up by some human beings. To recapture his God-hood, Hercules must prove to his real father Zeus, that he can be a true hero. While all of this goes on, the menacing Hades prepares to take over as the ruler of the after-life.
Uninspired, semi-interesting, and sometimes funny cinematic attempt by Disney to cash in on another marketable historical myth. This film seemed destined for success, but didn't seem to fully hit all of the right notes on its way to the concert. I thought that it basically lacked the heart of THE LION KING (7/10), the humor of ALADDIN (8/10), and the romance of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (8/10). I was most disappointed by the lack of realism in the "love" that ultimately materialized between Hercules and the New York-accented Meg. I found it to be quite weak. The hero story line was nice, and cool to keep track of, but ultimately the romance, the songs or the bad guy have to stick out for a children's animated tale to fully succeed, and unfortunately for Disney, this one contained no such stickout. Having said that, James Woods did make an excellent bad guy voice for Hades, but the character itself never seemed to be such a real threat to anyone but himself (Word on the street is that Hades was originally scripted as a slow, menacing character until James Woods auditioned for the role and impressed the casting directors with his rapid-fire style. The script was rewritten, but Woods ad-libbed many lines.)
The songs in the film were passable, but could someone please explain the connection between the re-occurring Motown quintet in a film set in ancient Greece? Another aspect of the film that didn't seem too kosher in my opinion was Hercules' trainer in the film, Phil (DeVito), who is generally supposed to be cute and adorable in films as such, but stood as half-man, half-goat in this movie. Not your cutest character ever invented by the Mickey-crew, that's for sure! All in all, I would recommend this film to all kids (mind you, I don't see this becoming a classic by any stretch of the imagination), and some adults who are interested in viewing a quick (88 minutes), harmless animated story about the Greek Gods, and some hip, quirky one-liners from James Woods. If not, warm up those nachos, and go out to rent any of the three Disney films that I suggested earlier. You've got heart, humor and romance on the tab. Make your choice.
(c) 2014 Berge Garabedian