a critiQal film review Treasure Planet (2002)

Plot: Jim Hawkins (Gordon-Levitt) tends to get into trouble wherever he goes. When a mysterious stranger, Billy Bones (McGoohan), crash lands near the inn his mother (Metcalf) owns, Jim brings him in. Seems Billy Bones is being chased for the map he has. Before he dies, Billy Bones gives Jim a map, and tells him to beware of a cyborg. Jim discovers the map leads to Treasure Island, a mythical planet said to be filled with the riches of a 1000 worlds.

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  • ...while the sidekicks are still thoroughly enjoyable, it's obvious Disney is starting to scrounge for ideas.

While I wait for the long anticipated premiere of Disney’s The Lion King (1994) on DVD (coming in October!), I felt I might as well check out Disney’s latest animated film, Treasure Planet.

I’d seen the previews, and it looked decent enough, but I wasn’t sure if this could match up to the great films in Disney’s history (The Rescuers (1977), The Fox and the Hound (1981), Beauty and the Beast (1991), etc.), so I decided I’d wait until it came out on DVD before I checked it out.

The character voices brought back a few memorable Disney voice actors, as well as a few new ones. Laurie Metcalf (Andy’s mother in the Toy Story (1995) films) is the most memorable of the returning voices, and gives the same appeal to her character (Jim’s mom Sarah) as she did in her brief roles in Toy Story (1995) and it’s sequel (At first, though, her voice seems recognizable as Pacha’s wife in The Emperor’s New Groove (2000), but that’s Wendy Malick).

Other recognizable voices include David Hyde Pierce (Niles from “Frasier” (TV)) as Doctor Doppler; Martin Short as B.E.N., a somewhat loony robot; and Emma Thompson as the feline Captain Amelia.

The only seeming drawback to the characters’ voices is actually the lead character, Jim, voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is way too recognizable from “3rd Rock From the Sun” (TV). His voice doesn’t change at all for this film, so it’s hard to picture him as anything other then his character in “3rd Rock From the Sun” (TV). I haven’t even seen the show that often, so if it’s difficult for me, it must be nigh impossible for a fan of the show.

The plot actually has been done before, similarly, in at least a half-dozen films, since this classic story has already been interpreted so many ways on screen. Muppet’s Treasure Island stands out as one of funniest interpretations, especially the “Cabin Fever” song montage. Disney tries to make the story it’s own by moving into space, but doesn’t quite succeed. They try to throw in a host of other species as well, some of which are just plain weird.

And, to carry on a Disney tradition, they throw in a few “buddy” characters (B.E.N. and Morph), just like they did in Pocahontas (1995), Aladdin (1992), and others. Morph is especially funny, being able to change into whatever he feels like whenever he wants. It definitely leads to a few funny moments. Overall, though, it doesn’t feel like a true Disney film…it feels a bit rushed.

All in all, a decent effort from Disney, but a bit of a disappointment anyway. With the impressive films of Aladdin (1992), The Lion King (1994), and Lilo & Stitch (2002) (just to name a few) behind them, it seems like Disney is beginning to scrounge for ideas. And it’s sadly apparent to the viewer.

Is this the end of the successful Disney original? We’ll just have to wait and see. I certainly hope not. Here’s hoping the next animated Disney film will be a must-own, rather then just an own-because-it’s part-of-the-series.

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