Reviewed by: Jason Murphy
Starring: voices of Joe Whyte, Brian Blessed, Glenn Close, Minnie Driver, Tony Goldwyn, Nigel Hawthorne, Lance Henriksen, Wayne Knight, Alex D. Linz, Rosie O'Donnell / Director: Chris Buck, Kevin Lima
“Tarzan” is possibly the best evidence to date that Disney Animation has lost the magic it once had. Not technically, but in plain and simple good storytelling. They simply no longer feel the need to take risks and break ground in the way they make their films, and complacently fall back on the assembly-line animation formula that they introduced with “The Little Mermaid”.
“Tarzan” is not a bad movie by any means, though. What bothers me is that Disney could have possibly had an Oscar-caliber film, and chose to throw it away for a film that is schizophrenic; part trite throwaway comedy (complete with gratuitous Brooklyn-accented comic sidekick animals and flatulence jokes) and part epic, grand, and visceral drama. The two parts are thrown together, and sadly they just don’t mix.
What this movie does well though, it does astoundingly. The character animation is phenomenal; the best I’ve ever seen. Also amazing is the “Deep Canvas” technology, which allows for a huge amount of camera movement, employed extensively for some absolutely thrilling visuals. Some of the music is perfect; some of it seems more oriented at merely selling the soundtrack CD (featuring Phil Collins). The best images from the film linger long afterwards… the burning ship that Tarzan’s family escapes from; two hands pressed together, as Tarzan struggles with his identity; the cabin Tarzan is discovered in; and lush shots of the jungle.
Tarzan’s story, too, is one thing that I also appreciate. Having grown up in the Middle East, the story of someone being an outsider in both of the worlds he lives in is something familiar to me. If more time were spent developing Tarzan’s struggle with his identity, and more depth added to the characters, this would be an excellent excellent film. Disappointingly, much of the true drama in the film is passed over to target it directly at kids (who will probably love it) which is a shame, because in the right hands, it could have been a cross-generational classic.
There is not much I found offensive about this film. Some flatulence jokes are present, as well as the animal kids insulting each other. Parents of younger kids should be warned that several of the sequences are intense, and while little violence happens on screen, the implication is there (such as the opening sequence in which Tarzan’s parents are killed by a leopard).
Overall, I think kids will like this film, and if you love animation, I would highly recommend it. I’m just very disappointed that Disney took what could have been one of the best animated features of all time, and turned it into a run-of-the-mill throwaway summer movie.