Reviewed by: Beverly Nault
This is one of the most colorful, pretty, witty animation spectacles that Disney has produced. It is fun to watch—its characters are likable and appealing. (We saw it in Disney’s New Amsterdam theatre in New York, which was worth a trip just to see the beautiful restoration the theatre has undergone.)
Hercules first appears as a babe-in-arms, cute and cuddly, the center of all attention on Olympus. But soon, the evil “Hades” gets wind of his birth and plots to have the infant killed. However, unbeknownst to Hades, the plan to have Hercules killed only serves to render him mortal, while leaving him with superhuman strength. Hercules grows up with his Earthling foster parents, an outcast who can’t quite control his own might or fit in with the “Earthlings.” With the help of a “hero-trainer,” (voice talent of Danny DeVito), Hercules works on his control, bravery, and plans to become a hero on Earth. Soon he is faced with danger, trickery and Hades’ endeavors to thwart Hercules’ efforts to earn his way back into immortality to live on Olympus as a god.
One part that I found slightly offensive from a Christian perspective was the Muses’ song, “The Gospel Truth,” which was of course, far from it. Patterned after a gospel singing group, the Muses’ role was to nararate the story’s events. Another weakness is that Hercules' powers come from within, not his faith in God. On the positive side, virtues worth remembering are that hard work and determination are necessary to overcome evil and help those who are in trouble. Also, there is no profanity.
Though ugly, Hades was not too threatening. However, there are several scenes with a monster/dragon that could be quite frightening to pre-schoolers and young grade-schoolers. The most frightening scenes will be the ones of hell, which show helpless faces swirling in an eternal pool of despair. According to the plot, after death you are in Hades' control, unless you happen to be lucky enough to have Hercules save you in his own effort to gain entry into Olympus/Heaven.
The message of the movie is mixed, but should provide earnest Christian parents with a few great “teachable moments.” Point out what a great Redeemer we have in Christ. Point out that He selflessly paid the price for our entry into Heaven (shed his pure, sinless blood to cover our sin), and remind them of the hopeless eternity of those who die without His salvation. (Hercules is sadly limited in the salvation department.)
Year of Release—1997