After a half-hearted attempt at animated sophistication (“The Hunchback of Notre Dame”), Disney has returned to its traditional format. “Hercules,” the studio’s latest feature is happy, happy, happy - just like any Disney movie should be.
The only problem, though, is the nature of Greek mythology. On a very basic level, such legend is not universally cheerful. For instance, Hercules is said to have killed his parents certainly not material Alan Menken could turn into a No. 1 hit for Vanessa Williams.
So, as usual, the traumatic and disturbing parts of the story were eliminated by the powers that be, making for a cheerful, animated music video of a movie. The contrast to the eternal happiness is just the same as always; the lead is ostracized by his peers and his girlfriend is put into mortal danger. As could be expected, watching “Hercules” is like opening Pandora’s Box to those schooled in the classic myth.
However outrageous the adaptation, though, any criticism of the movie on the basis of truthfulness is misleading. Instead, I’ll try to forget that “Hercules” was as precise an adaptation as Demi Moore’s “The Scarlet Letter” and review it for its entertainment value.
In Disney’s version of “Hercules,” Herc, as he is affectionately referred to in the film, is born to proud parents Zeus (voice of Rip Torn) and Hera, but ends up on Earth with mortal parents. This comes about when Hades (James Woods), God of the Underworld, bungles a murder attempt after finding out that Herc is going to stop his plan to conquer the universe.
Hercules (Tate Donovan) is stripped of his immortality by the attempt, but his now-legendary strength remains. So, he finds out that Zeus is his real father, and sets out to become a real hero so his immortality can be reinstated. Zeus refers him to Phil (Danny DeVito), a satyr known as a “hero trainer.”
The rest is hopelessly formulaic; Herc becomes a hero, falls in love, comes close to death, is saved and on and on as if the second half of the script resulted from a computer program.
No matter how many times Disney uses this formula, though, it will never fail to be at least somewhat entertaining. “Hercules” is a roller-coaster ride for kids that teens and adults can chuckle at in appreciation and possibly genuinely enjoy.
Admittedly, I truly enjoyed it. It’s silly enough to make anyone forget the myth it so hideously conflicts with, and the songs are as catchy as ever.
“Hercules” is the perfect summer movie for an America that has been psycho-thrillered to oblivion. Its scariest moments compare to only the opening credits of “The Lost World” or “Con-Air” and the only psycho-anything involved is Woods’ portrayal of Hades. It you don’t like it, it’s probably your own fault.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.