Disney swings the right way in new animated film
Great cast, songs bring life to old Burroughs' tale
June 18, 1999 ~ By Jeff Vice Deseret News movie critic
TARZAN -- *** 1/2 -- Animated feature starring the voices
of Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Rosie O'Donnell, Brian Blessed, Glenn Close,
Nigel Hawthorne and others; original songs by Phil Collins; based on characters
created by Edgar Rice Burroughs; rated G (animated violence, mild vulgarity);
Carmike 12, Plaza 5400, Ritz and Villa Theaters; Cinemark Sandy Movies
9; Gateway 8 Cinemas; Loews Cineplex South Towne Center and Trolley Square
Mall Cinemas; Reel Theatres.
There's finally a big-screen version of "Tarzan" that the entire family
can go "ape" over.Excuse the awful pun, but that's probably the most apt
way to describe the newest animated feature from Walt Disney Studios. Not
only is "Tarzan" one of the studio's best recent efforts, it's also certainly
the best cinematic version of Edgar Rice Burroughs' ape-man tales since
Johnny Weissmuller first put on the loincloth.
This animated musical/adventure is extremely exciting, even thrilling
at times. It's also funny and more than a little bit touching. And its
underlying message -- one about the nature of man and animal, as well as
familial relationships -- is one deeper than you'd expect in animated fare.
Still, there are a few times when it succumbs to some overly Disney
tendencies, such as adding cutesy animal sidekicks. And it is somewhat
violent, at least compared to the studio's other works.
But those are minor quibbles at best. Besides, this is possibly the
most faithful (in terms of spirit, if not subject matter) cinematic adaptation
of Burroughs' first published Tarzan work, the novella "Tarzan of the Apes."
The story follows an orphaned human infant who grows up believing he
is an ape. After his parents are killed, the youth is brought up by a kind
gorilla, Kala (voiced by Glenn Close), who lost a gorilla-child of her
And in spite of his obvious physical handicaps, Tarzan is gradually
accepted by members of the tribe -- all except for its disapproving chief,
the silverback gorilla Kerchak (the voice of Lance Henriksen).
While the now-adult Tarzan (voiced by Tony Goldwyn) continues his efforts
to impress his surrogate father, he also feels a familiar twinge when he
spies humans in the jungle. He also finds himself attracted to the Jane
(Minnie Driver), the beautiful but clumsy daughter of scientist Professor
Porter (Nigel Hawthorne).
Even though Jane and her father are content to leave the gorillas in
peace, their guide, an adventurer named Clayton (Brian Blessed), has a
more sinister plan in mind for the gentle beasts and their ape-like protector.
The level of animation here is at least as good as that in other Disney
animated features, but it's fleshed out considerably by use of "deep canvas,"
a new form of three-dimensional, digitally created background that helps
make the jungle itself a character in the film.
Speaking of character, the talented voice cast has lots of it, especially
Driver, who is surprisingly funny and Goldwyn, whose strong voice is extremely
appropriate. (Though the shtick of Rosie O'Donnell, who voices Tarzan's
closest friend, the gorilla Terk, gets a little annoying.)
Also, the movie moves along at a breathless pace and its musical interludes
are well-placed, particularly a series of songs written and performed by
Phil Collins. They help convey the characters' emotions and move the story
along without exposition.
"Tarzan" is rated G, but does contain some animated violence (fighting
and gunplay) and a few scenes that may be terrifying to younger audiences,
as well as some mildly vulgar gags.
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