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'Hercules': It's a hit and a myth


June 19, 1996
Web posted at: 12:22 a.m. EDT (0422 GMT)

By Movie Reviewer Carol Buckland

(CNN) -- "Hercules" is a hunk of animated fun from the Disney magic factory. No, it's not an instant classic like "Beauty and the Beast" or "The Lion King." But it's definitely an improvement over the "Pocahontas" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."

As one might expect, the Disney gang has recast the myth of Hercules into a young-man-coming-of-age story. Hercules is born a god, the son of Zeus and Hera. But thanks to the evil interference of the wicked god of the Underworld, Hades, he is stripped of his Olympian immortality.

movie icon (1.5MB/40 sec. QuickTime movie - a portion of the trailer for "Hercules")
movie icon (4.9MB/2 min. 5 sec. QuickTime movie - the trailer for "Hercules")

Adopted by a kindly human couple, he grows into a gawky teen-age outcast who doesn't know his own strength. Hercules eventually discovers his divine roots and sets about reclaiming his heritage by proving himself a "true hero."


Tate Donovan is the blandly adequate voice of Hercules. Danny DeVito is gruffly funny as his heroics coach, Phil. Susan Egan does a smart, surprisingly sexy turn as Meg, the bad girl who ends up going good. There's funny stuff from Bobcat Goldwait and Matt Frewer as a pair of evil minions named Pain and Panic.

The real vocal star of the show is James Woods. The man plays Hades like a second-rate Hollywood agent. He oozes charm one moment starts spewing semi-psychotic bile a second later. His Hades will do anything to clinch a deal.

The artwork is bold, boisterous and combines a number of different styles. Special kudos to Nik Ranieri and Ken Duncan who supervised the animation of Hades and Meg.


The Alan Menken-David Zippel score is melodious but not especially memorable. The film's big, Oscar-bait ballad is something titled "Go the Distance." It's currently being caterwauled on radios across the country by Michael Bolton. Frankly, I was tired of the cliched tune before the final chorus.

The best songs are the gospel and shoo-bop numbers performed by the Muses (Lillias White, Cheryl Freeman, LaChanze, Roz Ryan and Vaneese Thomas), who serve as a sort of Greek chorus for the story.

Kids will love "Hercules." It's fast-paced, it's funny, and it has a very positive message. Adults will enjoy it as well, thanks to its animated artistry and sly wit.

"Hercules" runs an action-packed 86 minutes. It's rated G. A couple of scary sequences -- notably, a scene in which Hercules fights the many-headed Hydra -- may be too intense for very small or sensitive children. Parents searching for pristine pure entertainment may have some objections about Meg's shady-lady tactics and Phil's lecherous behavior. But since she's in league with the lord of the Underworld and he's a satyr, what do you expect?


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