Man, am I glad to see John Musker and Ron Clements' work back on
the screen! After "Pocahontas" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" I
feared that Disney was going to be mired in mediocrity for all time.
But the guys who brought us "The Little Mermaid" and "Aladdin" were
just taking the time to do a bang-up job on "Hercules". It took a
while to retool this myth for the G-rated crowd. This being a Disney
movie, the parentage of Hercules is Zeus and his wife Hera, not the
mythically correct Zeus and his non-wife Alcmene. So since Hera
isn't going to be the villain who sets out to destroy Hercules, a new
villain is needed and comes in the form of Hades. Now what I really
like about these guys is that they find the real story, the one we
can all relate to and serve it with lots of laughs. Like Aladdin and
the Mermaid, Hercules is a teen misfit. His strength isn't a gift,
it's an uncontrollable burden. He learns how to be a hero and then
we get a very funny lesson on our own hero-worshipping society.
Air-Herc sandals, the fans and the credit card endorsements are a
mirror on our own obsession with finding and glorifying heroes.
Luckily, Zeus tells Hercules and us that there is a difference
between a celebrity and a true hero.
Entertaining from beginning to end for all ages, "Hercules" is a
credit to the record-setting 906 people who worked on it. I knew
James Woods was a great actor, but who knew he had such a great voice
for a comedic villain? And the villains do get the best lines.
Watch him berate his two minions Pain and Panic, Bobcat Goldthwait
and Matt Frewer, when he catches them wearing Air-Hercs. It is
priceless! Then, not only did they brilliantly cast Paul Shaffer as
Hermes, they gave Hermes Shaffer's trademark sunglasses. As
Hercules' trainer, the animators have Danny DeVito down to a T as a
satyr with attitude. Susan Egan breaks out of her good-girl Belle
role on Broadway's "Beauty and the Beast" long enough to give a
sultry performance as the jaded Meg. As always, Alan Menken
contributes music that will be playing on the radio long after the
film has gone to video. Rated G, "Hercules" should give the Southern
Baptists reason to rethink their boycott.
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