A review by Jason Morrison
Tarzan. King of the apes. The guy who made that weird yell that
imitates every time they swing on a rope or branch or whatever.
Disney. King of animation. The guy who created Magic Kingdoms and
tomorrow, and is now frozen along with Hitler's brain.
Phil Collins. Former Genesis front man. The guy who has graced
stations across the country with songs like "Land of Confusion."
Now imagine mixing equal parts of each and you get-- Disney's
summer's choice family film. And it's pretty good.
Actually, there seems to be a fourth ingredient in the film in addition to
the above. Disney has a fairly established drawing style, but Tarzan himself
is more like Disneyfied old comic book art. It works really well, actually,
and it's a shame that most of the other characters show little or no
influence of this kind. But, on to the story.
As the familiar story goes, a British couple are washed up shipwrecked in
Africa some where they proceed to build a house, have a kid, and get eaten.
The baby is found by a female silverback gorilla, Kala (Glenn Close) , who
has recently lost a son of her own. She adopts the kid, calling him Tarzan,
and he grows up with the gorillas. Young Tarzan (Alex D. Linz) wants more
than anything to be accepted by the other gorillas, especially Kerchak (Lance
Henriksen), the alpha male and his mother's mate.
So Tarzan (Tony Goldwyn) becomes strong, agile, feral, and more ripped than a
mindless Ambercrombie and Fitch model. Eventually, though, prompted by the
arrival of Professor Archimedes Q. Porter (Nigel Hawthorne), his man Clayton
(Brian Blessed) and Porter's cute daughter Jane (Minnie Driver) he figures
out he's a person, not an ape. After saving Jane's life and swinging about a
bit, Clayton turns on the group and tricks Tarzan into leading him and his
poacher friends to the gorillas. Comic relief is provided by an elephant and
The story is on the deep side, as Disney movies go, with Tarzan trying to
figure out who and what he is-- a quest we all travel, though usually not so
dramatically. His talent for invention and curiosity, traits not shared by
the gorillas, are used to show the separation he feels from the rest of his
clan. Of course, there's also the love of the mother for her adopted son and
the eventual respect Tarzan gains from Kerchak-- both strong signs that
differences, people (and gorillas) can get along and even gain something from
There are a few very Disney aspects to this film that drag it down just a
bit. The camp-destroying scene where the young gorillas improvise a song and
dance straight out of Stomp is cheesy, as is the Professor. I'm fairly sure
I've seen this character in at least 10 other Disney movies/shorts/whatever.
And remember when I mentioned Phil Collins? You will if you ever see the
movie. The music is pretty good, in general, but every time Collins' voice
broke over I couldn't help but think how non-Tarzany he sounds. Think about
it-- bestial survival in the African jungles with "I Can't Dance" in the
background-it just don't seem right.
The movie is still fun, though, and is very much a family film-- little kids
will like it, big kids will like it, and so will parents and grandparents.
Not groundbreaking or challenging, but completely pleasant.
(Out of five)