VOICES OF: Michael J. Fox, James Garner, Cree Summer, Don Novello, Phil Morris

2001, 95 Minutes, Directed by: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise

Description: Nerdy linguist Milo Thatch (Michael J. Fox) believes he's found the location of the legendary Lost Continent. An eccentric zillionaire sends Milo out to test his hypothesis with an anachronistic crew that includes tough Puerto Rican mechanic Audrey (Jacqueline Obradors), demolition expert Vinnie (Don Novello), and butt-kicking blond adventurer Helga (Claudia Christian). When they find Atlantis, its culture is dying because the people can no longer read the runes that explain their mysterious power source--but Milo can. Nasty Commander Rourke (James Garner) attempts to steal that power source, leading to the requisite all-out battle.

"I can't remember this ever showing on the cinema circuit," my wife remarked when we took the DVD copy of Atlantis: The Lost Empire from the rental shelf. It was, but I can't blame her for not remembering it. Atlantis, while not performing poorly, didn't exactly set the box office alight.

The Disney studio's effort to make "something different" for a change, Atlantis was made by more or less the same crew responsible for Beauty & the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. "Something different" for Disney means that there are no cute furry animal sidekicks in it, so don't go expecting any Akira anime style violence. (There really aren't any animal sidekicks in it - in the informative DVD the makers tell of how they barely resisted the temptation to give the main character voiced by Back to the Future's Michael J. Fox a talking mouse companion!)

Instead Atlantis is an action adventure movie set in 1914 about a surprisingly ethnically diverse group of explorers who set off to find the long-lost civilization of Atlantis.

Just how ethnically diverse is this group? Well, there's a Latino mechanic and an African American medical doctor, both of whom are treated as equals by their White counterparts. How likely is this for 1914? Not much, but considering how Disney's Pocahontas and the wretched Anastasia (the 20th Century Fox attempt at being more Disney than Disney) falsified historical facts, this sort of historical revisionism seems almost innocuous!

"A surprisingly ethnically diverse group of explorers for 1914!"

For "something different", Atlantis reminded me a lot of the recent Titan AE, an ill-fated attempt aimed at getting young teenager boys into seeing an animated movie.

Like that movie, I'm not quite sure whether Atlantis will appeal to the broad demographic that turns movies like The Lion King and Little Mermaid into such huge mega-hits.

After all, it has no cute furry animal sidekick (not that featuring some out-of-place "cute" alien creatures helped Titan AE any at the box office).

I think boys will ultimately like it more than girls. It reminded me most of childhood pleasures such as Jules Verne Illustrated Classic Comics versions of 20 000 Leagues Under the Sea and late night TV movies like Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Also, the animation is very professional as well and some of the character designs are quite good.

Unfortunately, Atlantis squanders a lot of its potential by getting bogged down by some muddled plot points and some serious plot holes. Sure, small kids don't expect logic from a movie, but I feel sorry for any parent who'll have to explain certain events to their young 'uns.

The movie clips along at a fast pace however, and by the action-packed finale (more inspired by action movies like Die Hard than anything Disney has done before) you'd be too amazed by the excellent animation to wonder what exactly is going on.

This'll make a neat double video bill for the little 'uns along with The Iron Giant, another attempt to do "something different".


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