June 18, 2001 -- Disney's latest animated feature is a traditional tale of romantic adventure along the lines of "At the Earth's Core," "Journey the the Center of the Earth," and "Lost Horizon."
A young scholar, Milo Thatch (voice by Michael J. Fox), is invited to join a daring expedition to find the lost land of Atlantis, described in 360 B.C. by Plato. Thatch is determined to vindicate the life's work of his grandfather. His fellow adventurers, however, led by the mercenary Commander Lyle T. Rourke (voice by veteran actor James Garner of "Twilight"), are more interested in profiteering. Also on the expedition are Claudia Christian (of "Babylon 5") providing the voice for femme fatale Helga Sinclair. Corey Burton speaks for the earthy geologist Gaetan Moliere (aka "Mole"). Don Novello (Father Guido Sarducci) provides the voice for demolitions expert Vinny Santorini. Actor Phil Morris ("Seinfeld") does the voice for Dr. Sweet. The late Jim Varney did the vocalizations for Cookie, the expedition's grizzled cook. Varney, best known as the goofy character Ernest P. Worrell in several films and commercials, picked a more memorable film for what may have been his last performance. Jacqueline Obradors ("Six Days, Seven Nights") is Audrey Ramirez, the mechanic for the expedition.
After a harrowing journey, the expedition arrives in Atlantis, where Rourke grabs the crystaline power source. Without the crystal's power, Atlantis can't survive. The move splits the expedition apart and a battle ensues to save Atlantis. A key figure in the story is Princess Kidagakash (voice by Cree Summer), daughter of Atlantean ruler Kashekim Nedakh (Leonard Nimoy of "Star Trek" fame). The romance between Milo Thatch and the princess, and the battle for the crystal, are the main plot elements. One of the funniest characters in the film is the understated Mrs. Packard (voice by Florence Stanley). Mrs. Packard, expedition's chain-smoking, droll, pessimistic, communications officer remains at ease in any crisis as she calmly repeats her mantra, "We're all gonna die."
The artwork is well-done. It has a sharp-edged comic book look to it. The characters have strong, angular features. Some critics, like Roger Ebert, have noted the influence of Japanese animation in the film. To me, it looks more like the Marvel Comics influence, particularly in the drawing of Commander Lyle T. Rourke, who has that square-jawed Sgt. Rock look, and the general color scheme also smacks of Marvel. The attack by the giant lobster monster in the early part of the film also looks like a standard, menacing Marvel-type of monster. This is good-looking artwork and the story is strong. Unlike many Disney summer animated features, this one is not a musical. It is a straight adventure story. Let's hope it doesn't go the way of similar films like "Titan A.E." and "The Iron Giant." This film rates a B.
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