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A review by Jason Morrison

Tarzan. King of the apes. The guy who made that weird yell that everyone imitates every time they swing on a rope or branch or whatever.

Disney. King of animation. The guy who created Magic Kingdoms and cities of tomorrow, and is now frozen along with Hitler's brain.

Phil Collins. Former Genesis front man. The guy who has graced soft-rock stations across the country with songs like "Land of Confusion."

Now imagine mixing equal parts of each and you get-- Disney's Tarzan, this 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 Rosie O'Donnell.

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 despite differences, people (and gorillas) can get along and even gain something from each other.

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)

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