Monday, March 18, 2013

An Obvious Disney Hero Journey, Hercules Disappoints!

The Good: Decent voice acting
The Bad: Predictable plot, Obvious Disney conceits, Light on character development/complexities, Largely unmemorable songs
The Basics: One of the less memorable Disney films, Hercules is not at all enduring or very interesting at all.

My wife is a big Disney fan and she has helped give me an appreciation of the animated films that are largely for children. Hercules is not one that she has gotten me to appreciate. In fact, Hercules is one of the more disappointing Disney films with some wildly erratic animation. While it might not be the worst film, it lacks notable music or consistently good animation. It has a somewhat stylized form of animation, as opposed to realistic proportions and a realistic sense of physics to the universe.

Hercules retells the story of the classic Greek hero, in a Disney way. Unfortunately, the whole “Disney thing” is alive and well in Hercules. In addition to the usual comic relief sidekicks (in this case Phil – short for Philoctetes – and Pegasus), Hercules has comic relief dimwitted adversaries Pain and Panic who help to kill the momentum of the film.

Set in ancient Greece, the gods overthrow the Titans and take to Olympus. There, Zeus and Hera have a son, Hercules. Zeus’s brother, Hades, is deeply jealous of the boy and he learns that Hercules is the only thing that will stop him from releasing the Titans from their prison in eighteen years. Being a big picture guy, Hades enlists his minions, Pain and Panic, to get rid of Hercules. Unable to kill him, they drop him on Earth where he is adopted by two humans.

As a teenager, Hercules is told by Zeus who he is and to train as a hero, he is joined by Phil and Pegasus to learn to be powerful and responsible. Hercules is waylaid by Megara, a woman he rescues from Nessus, though she is not truly a damsel in distress. A pawn for Hades, Meg gets Hercules to perform heroic tasks, which make him a celebrity and put him in the crosshairs of Hades. With Hades planning to dispose of Hercules, Phil and Meg try to save Hercules, even as the hero loses his godlike powers!

Hercules is presented as a pretty unremarkable hero in Hercules. He is not particularly cute or inspiring and his fame quickly goes to his head. Meg is, initially, an interesting Disney Princess who seems to be more than just a simple damsel in distress. Unfortunately, even Meg’s initial sarcasm and inner strength turn into needing a man to rescue her and that is disappointing.

Danny DeVito provides a decent vocal performance as Phil, but the role is not one of his funniest or even more interesting parts. Similarly, Bobcat Goldthwait and Matthew Frewer play off one another well to embody Pain and Panic, though they are remarkably monolithic supporting villains and screw-ups. Both actors deserve better.

Hercules marks one of the first truly significant voiceover roles for James Woods and his portrayal of the villainous Hades. Woods is hilarious and expressive and Hades steals the show frequently from the other characters. In fact, Woods’s jokes and deliveries make him the most interesting character to watch, even when he is evil.

Even James Woods, though, cannot make Hercules worth watching or adding to one’s permanent collection.

For other Disney animated films, please visit my reviews of:
Wreck-It Ralph
Toy Story 3
A Christmas Carol
The Princess And The Frog
The Incredibles
Lilo & Stitch
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Monsters, Inc.
The Lion King
Beauty And The Beast
The Little Mermaid
Lady And The Tramp
The Sword In The Stone
Sleeping Beauty


For other film reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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