movie film review | chris tookey


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  Tarzan Review
Tookey's Rating
7 /10
Average Rating
6.25 /10
Brian Blessed, Joe Whyte, Glenn Close
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Directed by: Chris Buck, Kevin Lima
Written by: Tab Murphy, Bob Tzudiker and Noni White

Released: 1999
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 88

Memoirs of an ape-man.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Tarzan has the usual strengths of Disney. The expert storytelling will appeal to all ages. The opening sequence is swift, economical and touching, as baby Tarzan's parents are shipwrecked and killed by a leopard, and Tarzan is adopted by a mother gorilla (voiced by Glenn Close) whose own son has been killed by the same leopard.

It marries this immediately gripping storyline to breathtaking technique. This is animation at a new level of sophistication: with a more three-dimensional look than ever, and a sense of movement unmatched in any area of cinema.

The voice-overs are exceptional. Tarzan is a more rounded character than he was in live-action movies. Tony Goldwyn interprets him as a young man battling with the need to assimilate - he's man by nature, gorilla by nurture. He will strike a chord with many required to integrate themselves into an adoptive family, or fit into a society where they are a minority.

Like Bambi and The Lion King, Tarzan is a tale of a son growing up to face adult responsibilities. Lance Henriksen, normally cast as a villain, shows power and depth as Tarzan's gorilla father, who initially distrusts his adopted son, then fears and finally accepts him.

Even more of a charmer is Jane, beautifully interpreted by Minnie Driver. She's a refreshingly English character who - uniquely among Disney heroines - supplies her own comedy relief as she tries to remain prim and proper in an inhospitable jungle.

There is strong input, too, from Brian Blessed as Clayton, a devious white hunter; and Nigel Hawthorne potters amiably as Jane's naturalist father.

Aspects which work less well are the over-broad attempts at comic relief by the obligatory animal sidekicks, a young female gorilla called Terk (Rosie O'Donnell, with an out-of-place Bronx accent) and a cutesy elephant (Wayne Knight).

There are moments when I suspect Disney would be unable to make the Life of Christ without saddling the Messiah with two animal sidekicks.

The most serious weakness is the undistinguished score, virtually all of it sung by Phil Collins. Little has relevance to Africa or the characters, and none of it advances the plot.

However, the final impression is of pace and movement. Tarzan surfs through the jungle with an athleticism that recalls the best moments in Jackie Chan movies. Equally skilfully animated is the way Tarzan's shambling walk is midway between a man and an ape's.

There has been a revival of family films in the last decade, but we still don't get enough of them. So it's worth shouting Tarzan's merits from the treetops. This is a treat for the whole family, and probably the most visually exciting cartoon of all time.

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