The Lost Empire
dir Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
scr Tab Murphy
voices Michael J. Fox, James Garner, John Mahoney, Cree Summer, Leonard Nimoy, Jim Varney, David Ogden Stiers, Don Novello, Claudia Christian, Corey Burton, Phil Morris, Jacqueline Obradors
release US 15.Jun.01; UK 19.Oct.01
Disney 01/US 1h35
Disney's annual animated feature is yet another impeccably drawn tale from pop mythology with adventure heroes on a personal quest. The only real difference here is that there aren't any songs. Milo (voiced by Fox) is intent on finding the lost city of Atlantis, and assembles a crack team of wacky experts to get him there, including a gung ho military commander (Garner), a cheeky cook (Varney), a deadpan Italian (Novello) and a smelly Frenchman (Burton). After a gruelling journey, they arrive to find a dying king (Nimoy) and his voluptuous daughter (Summer) ... and a city in big trouble.
As you expect, lovely traditional animation is seamlessly augmented with stunning computer technology. There are some terrific action sequences and a very talented vocal cast. And there are some interesting things going on under the surface, if you'll excuse the pun. So why is the finished film such a botched job? Not only is the story silly to the point of exasperation, but it's edited incomprehensibly, making it all feel choppy and rushed. It's like the filmmakers thought that by keeping it brisk no one would notice that it's derivative and dull. The relatively intriguing characters are saddled with tired Disney cliches (both of the main characters are motherless this time) and the crystal-heart mumbo jumbo is ludicrous. Despite the serious themes, there's a stubborn refusal to be a serious film. It just never cuts loose of its kids-movie ethos--trite music, obvious moralising, toy placement and whitewashed sex and violence. Perhaps with another 20 minutes of footage the story and characters could have been fleshed out with some depth, meaning, originality and, most importantly, grit.