[Picture of projector]

Laramie Movie Scope: Hercules

Another great feature-length muscial cartoon from Disney

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]
June 29, 1997 -- "Hercules" is another wonderful feature-length Disney cartoon that's fun for the whole family. It has something for kids and something for adults, too.

Disney makes it all seem so easy. I wonder why nobody else can do what they do. About the closest anyone has come to that old Disney magic was Spielberg's "American Tail." Disney always seems to be able to come up with a great story, cute characters, good music and a great villain. This one has it all.

"Hercules" tells the classic tale of the Greek legend with a number of interesting twists. The Muses become a sort of Gospel Greek chorus, advancing the story and providing musical interludes.

Phil, the mentor and sidekick of Hercules provides much of the comic relief. Phil's voice is done by Danny DeVito. Tate Donovan does the voice of Hercules. Our hero is portrayed as a clumsy youth, an outsider who doesn't fit in.
He learns from Zeus (voice by Rip Torn) that he must become a true hero to regain his place among the gods. Along the way, he falls in love with Meg (Susan Egan), a pawn of Hades, who plans to use Hercules' feeling for her as part of a scheme to overthrow Zeus.

Hades (voice by James Woods) is a great villain, one of the best ever. He's scheming and slick, an evil hustler. His two sidekicks, Pain (voice by Bob Goldthwait) and Panic (Matt Frewer) are funny and not too threatening.

There are plenty of inside jokes aimed at adults, such as the commercialization of Hercules with his own brand of sports drink, shoes, dolls and body building equipment. There are also funny references to other movies, such as "The Karate Kid."

The choice to make Hercules a vulnerable, clumsy hero is a good one. He's a hero who doesn't have all the answers all the time, who is unsure of himself. It makes him a hero who is easy to identify with. His decision to risk all when he was most vulnerable and his ultimate Christ-like self sacrifice are all the more touching and heroic.

In an era when we see many anti-heroes and false heroes on the screen, it is good to be reminded of true heroism, not to mention true love. How come we don't see this kind of character development in flesh and blood people on the screen very often?

The songs by Alan Menken are very good and the animation is also very good, but it is the story and the fine characterizations that really make this film work its magic. I feel sorry for those people who think they have to boycott this film. If they do go to the movies, they will end up seeing something a whole lot worse than "Hercules." There is a sort of gay character in the film, Hermes (voice by Paul Shaffer), but even if Disney isn't anti-gay, the company still makes a great movie. This one rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 1997 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.
    [Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)