Lately I’ve been watching a lot of Disney films, one of them being the often overlooked Hercules. I’ve decided to review this film in particular because I often hear debates on whether it holds up as an animated classic.
The film stars who else but Hercules (Tate Donovan), the son of Zeus who was kidnapped as a child by the conniving Hades (James Woods). Due to the actions of Hades, Hercules was forced to live out his adolescence on Earth, where he has been outcast because of his superhuman strength. After discovering his true identity, Hercules enlists in the help of Phil (Danny DeVito), a satyr who can train him to become a hero (so that he may return to his family on Mount Olympus). The only thing standing in Hercules’s way is the evil plot of Hades, who has concocted a plan to take over the world.
The animation of Hercules, while not mind-blowing, is very colorful and visually entertaining for the viewer. The whole film was animated in this unconventional way that remains uniquely its own. I can’t think of a single Disney movie that is artistically similar to Hercules, which I find to be fascinating.
The story, while charming and a lot of fun, isn’t anything particularly new. The direction Hercules goes in, as well as many of the plot devices used, have been done to death. This sadly makes Hercules extremely predictable, to the point where I can foretell just about every scene in the entire movie. You could easily make a long checklist of clichés Hercules rehashes from other Disney flicks.
The character of Hades, hilariously voiced by James Woods, steals the spotlight away from just about the entire cast. His voice acting was very different from what I’m used to in Disney films, which reminded me of Robin William’s performance as the Genie in Aladdin. Hades speaks in this low menacing tone, yet talks a mile a minute like an auctioneer. Every minute Hades was on-screen, I was having a blast with just how funny he is.
I think Hades, in an odd, roundabout way, draws attention to how forgettable the rest of the cast is. I didn’t dislike the characters of Hercules, Phil, or Megara (Hercules’s love interest), I just think that overall they aren’t that memorably written.
Tonally, Hercules is nothing short of a hot mess. To this day I still have no idea what theme the film was trying to go for. Most of the songs in Hercules are Gospel, yet it’s filled with American pop cultural references, in a setting involving the Greek mythology. What exactly was Disney attempting to achieve by making Hercules hodgepodge of bizarre ideas? I just don’t get it.
Despite the messy tone, dull characters, and unoriginal premise, Hercules still remains a fun filled and all around enjoyable movie. I feel that most people will be able to overlook the flaws and see Hercules as a pleasant little movie. The animation is colorful and unconventional, the story quite charming, and the character of Hades is a real blast. It’s a film I would definitely watch again, and recommend that you check out.
The Verdict: B