With tracks ranging from his wild little operetta that opens up to his dramatically ascending Broadway ballads, “Pocahontas” eagerly follows in the footsteps of “Beauty and the Beast”. This time, her beauty is a Native American princess who talks to the trees and listens, and her beast is an English soldier who looks like a beachboy and sounds like Mel Gibson.
But this fantastic fantasy about the history of the people of Disney does not have the stuff of a Broadway hit – although some of the great voices of musical theater are heard on the track. His comic characters are derisory; his villain is a swollen and harmless Captain Hook; and its plot is negligible and palpably silly.
All that “Pocahontas” can give you is love. It looks like a “Madison County Bridges” for children.
From the moment the project was announced, it has looked far from promising. After returning to the top of the heap of animation returning to the fairy tales that made his fame and fortune since “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937, Disney’s motors and agitators looked past “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast “and” Aladdin “in a territory more dangerous than original fairy tales for our times.
Pure moment, massive promotion and a shrewd but less than admirable combination of African choirs and drums and Elton John pop have brought unprecedented returns to “The Lion King” – though he will never go far from “Eminently Seasoned Beauty and Beast” “.
There is no doubt that “Pocahontas” will also attract megabucks, largely due to the power of its main song, “Colors of the Wind”. But despite the wonderfully persuasive animation of the human characters – especially the agile, hopping, diving Princess Algonquian – this turns out to be a flat effort, both visually and dramatically.
As directed by Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg from a script by Carl Binder, Susannah Grant and Philip LaZebnik, “Pocahontas” begins by stealing from “Henry V.” by Laurence Olivier. An overview of the landscape of Elizabethan London comes to life and the camera gets closer and closer to the Renaissance city, closing not on the Globe Theater but on a ship on the pier.
The swabbies load the large sailing ship Susan Constant while singing “The Virginia Company”, with the blonde Capt. John Smith, sung crudely but credibly by Mel Gibson, taking on voice command. The superb, overweight Gov. Ratcliffe arrives in a carriage with his English bulldog pipsqueak and the fawn cabin boy, and is offshore. Now the title fills the screen and Alan Menken’s soundtrack stirs emotions, in a Native American mode.
The princess presents herself as an independent and impetuous species, ready to dive headlong from a towering cliff, and always a problem for her severe but loving father, Powhatan.
It is also presented as the most splendid and voluptuous of the Disney heroines, with minis minidresses in deerskin with bare shoulders and raven braids rolled and blown by the wind that make every day of the hair the best. When speaking through Irene Bedard, Pocahontas is a confident but somewhat dreamy girl-woman. When Judy Kuhn sings, her “Just Around the River Bend” takes her to promising musical heights.
As the plot progresses, Powhatan is presented as a noble, albeit rigid, warrior king as voiced by Indian activist Russell Means. His opponent Ratcliffe, read by “Beauty” veteran David Ogden Stiers, is portrayed as a benevolent and somewhat foolish dictator who seems to think he is in the golden land of the Aztecs.
The Pocahontas court includes a playful raccoon and a long-billed hummingbird, for animated comic relief, and a fiancée Nakoma (near Nokomis, daughter of the moon of “Hiawatha” fame). Grandma Willow, an ancestral tree spirit spoken and sung by Linda Hunt, eliminates the advice and ecological wisdom in “Listen to your heart”. Kocoum, a brave brave, hopes to hope. But once Pocahontas blinks his eyes on the blond boy with the double hats and the funny helmet and the lace of Mel Gibson, Kocoum is dead (literally).
As the vistas unfold, Disney’s background artists work with Japanese landscape techniques, filling the screen with flat and tarnished pastels. “Colors of the Winds” offers more primary shades, but above all the New World and its people seem semi-abstract, stylized and cold designs. Even the swollen music of Menken and the simple but sometimes poetic lyrics of Stephen Schwartz cannot ignite much warmth in the sincere but empty feeling of a great culture and its first doomed heroine.
Classified G, this film contains a murder and some moments that could scare young children.
POCAHONTAS, directed by Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg; written by Carl Binder, Susannah Grant and Philip LaZebnik; cinematographer,; music composed by Alan Menken; songs by Menken and Stephen SchwatzSchwartz; artistic director, Michael Giaimo; curated by H. Lee Peterson; produced by James Pentecost. A Buena Vista Pictures Distribution Inc. version of Walt Disney Pictures Production, which will open today at Showcase Cinema, East Hartford, East Windsor and Berlin. Duration: 78 minutes.
With the vocal talents of:
Pocahontas Irene Bedard
Pocahontas (songs) Judy Kuhn
John Smith Mel Gibson
Gov. Ratcliffe David Ogden Stiers
Meeko John Kassir
Powhatan Russell means
Thomas Christian Bale
Percy Danny Mann
Grandma Willow Linda Hunt
Wiggins David Ogden Stiers
Ben Billy Connolly
Lon Joe Baker
Flit Frank Welker
Nakoma Michelle St. John
Kocoum James Apaumut Fall
Tootosi of Kekata Gordon
**** Excellent; *** Very good; ** Good; * Quite right; * Poor