With "Tarzan" Disney once again draws upon its time-honored blockbuster recipe:
Take one reworked story, add "updated" romance between non-threatening, politically correct characters, throw in two or three loveable sidekicks, mix until fluffy.
"Tarzan" follows this formula to a "T," but you know what? It works. This is a beautiful movie that elevates the art of animation while also giving the audience 90 minutes of fun.
Everyone knows the story -- an orphaned baby boy is adopted by gorillas and raised as one of their own (almost). Over the years the baby grows into a strapping, loincloth-wearing, vine-swinging jungle king. Tarzan (Tony Goldwyn) spends his days moving through the jungle at warp speed and living the high life, but amidst this bliss he can't shake the feeling that something is awry.
Our pectorally-gifted hero looks at his knuckle dragging, hairy relatives and sees that he's very, very different. To make matters worse, the leader of his gorilla clan, Kerchak (Lance Henriksen), won't accept him as a true gorilla. It's a classic story of "father won't accept son despite son's obvious leadership ability."
As if this weren't enough to contend with, Tarzan discovers an expedition of humans who have arrived in the jungle to study gorillas. This expedition includes the requisite love interest -- an English scientist named Jane (Minnie Driver). As you probably gathered, Tarzan falls for Jane and Jane falls for Tarzan. In the midst of this G-rated bacchanal, Jane and her bumbling-yet-lovable father (Nigel Hawthorne) teach the ape-man how to speak English. Oddly enough, Tarzan develops an American accent despite learning the language from a pair of Brits.
Linguistics aside, the plot thickens when a conniving, backstabbing, truly eeeevil hunter named Clayton (Brian Blessed) launches a scorched-earth campaign against the gorillas. The movie culminates in a battle that pits adorable gorillas against ugly humans. I won't reveal the ending, but its safe to assume that the group with the best marketing campaign wins.
The plot is lacking, but this is nothing new in Disney animation. We flock to these films expecting glorious animation, and in that respect "Tarzan" comes through. Using a new software program, Deep Canvas, the Disney artists have set Tarzan in a lush, textured environment. This Tarzan does more than leap from tree to tree, he actually surfs through the foliage. The result is a visual rollercoaster that should earn someone an Oscar.
Thankfully, the animation isn't spoiled by melodramatic songs. In previous Disney efforts the audience is put through a four-minute musical sob-fest as the protagonist laments over his/her/its precarious situation. Tarzan never finds the time to stare at himself in a reflecting pool while operatically yelping.
Although it's formulaic, "Tarzan" is still a solid effort from Disney. Kids will enjoy the quick pace and wacky animal antics and adults will find joy in the beautiful animation. This is a fine way to spend an afternoon.
Filmfodder Grade: A
Note: This review originally appeared at Ontap.com. It's reprinted here for archival purposes.