Hercules

1997, Movie, G, 80 mins

Review

HERCULES
starstarstarstar
Fun for the kids, but no BEAUTY AND THE BEAST or LION KING. This child-friendly retelling of Hercules' story takes the predictable liberties with a story originally chockablock with sex, violence and generally sordid behavior. After several passes through the Disney wringer, a sanitized, blandly blond Hercules (voice of Tate Donovan) emerges, ready to enter no pantheon other than that of muscle-beach pinup boys. Both the "Greek" and the "mythology" are pretty much tossed away with the washing-up water, making way for rousing up-tempo songs (what the "Gospel Truth" has to do with matters mythical we can't quite figure out) and a high-profile voice cast that includes Danny De Vito, Rip Torn, Samantha Eggar, Hal Holbrook, Amanda Plummer, comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, Wayne Knight (of TV's Seinfeld) and Matt Frewer (TV's Max Headroom). The monstrous Titans are pretty scary (though their climactic battle with the gods is a bit of an anticlimax ), as are the many-headed hydra and the murky underworld, with its lake of dead souls. And then there's Hades, Lord of the Underworld: The hand of ferocious UK illustrator Gerald Scarfe (PINK FLOYD -- THE WALL), a surprising addition to the design lineup, is all over the snaggle-fanged villain, whose feet are shrouded in smoke and whose head glows with perpetual flame. Voiced by James Woods, he's a conniving, angle-figuring, glad-handing Prince of Darkness -- the Devil as agent. This sounds pretty clever, as does the conception of heroic Hercules as classical huckster, his name all over ancient action figures, vases, refreshing drinks and sandals, but the joke curdles when you remember it's a Disney picture you're watching: Prepare to spend the summer stepping on plastic satyrs and winged horses. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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