Disney Classics #43: Treasure Planet

This movie came out during the time when I wasn’t going to see Disney flicks at the cinema anymore and so it totally passed me by. I only watched it a couple of years back, and while it’s fun and has some decent visuals it still feels a bit flat.

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The plot is basically Treasure Island set in space, which works mainly thanks to this unique world they create which mixes cosmic backdrops with nautical flourishes. The visuals of spaceships sailing through the stars is actually quite striking in places, and while utterly daft has a certain charm.

The problem is that this doesn’t feel like a Disney movie, it feels like the studio was trying to stay relevant or follow trends and so it lacks a certain charm. That’s not to say it doesn’t work as a fun adventure story, but it doesn’t sit comfortably in the Disney catalogue.

For starters, I can’t think of another Disney movie with such uninspired music. There are couple of cheesy power ballad type songs, but they didn’t land with me and there are no musical interludes, the story being played fairly straight.

Sticking to the novel’s plot line does mean that Brian Murray’s John Silver is a vastly different from the traditional Disney villain. There’s more conflict on display here as Silver’s conscience and affection for Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) clash with his selfish quest for the treasure. It’s an interesting dynamic, and the movie does a good job of keeping him in the grey area throughout, there are moments when he softens, but he doesn’t have the 180 degree flip that sometimes happens in kids’ movies. Even at the end, he’s got a bit of a scheming edge to him.

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The dynamic between Jim and Silver is at the heart of the movie, with Jim, a bit of a waster, finally getting the father figure he missed growing up and some encouragement and praise. It’s key to Jim’s development as a hero, having to take charge when the pirates mutiny and the Captain is injured.

The character of Captain Amelia, voiced by Emma Thompson, is an interesting one. Introduced as a strong, confident commander she’s definitely in charge but the fact that the movie sidelines her for the third act undercuts the strong female character they had created. I get that being strong doesn’t make you impervious to injury, but it’s still a shame when she spends most of the closing stages unconscious or having to be carried by other characters. Emma Thompson deserves to be a more badass character.

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In general the movie works for me, mainly because it would be hard to totally mess up with Robert Louis Stevenson’s story and marrying it with weird alien creatures just adds another cool element. The ending is where the stories divert the most, with intergalactic portals setting up the major action sequence, but this is executed with real skill, creating a genuine sense of peril and some thrills along the way.

It’s a fun adventure film, but it lacks that certain Disney charm and in making Silver a rather likeable character it loses out by not having a definite villain. But kudos has to be given for how it tweaks elements, especially in the creation of Martin Short’s screwy robot B.E.N, standing in for the castaway Ben Gunn, who is a rather fun and nutty performance from short.

It works, but it’s flawed and it’s not one I rush back to rewatch. I think the problem is that I already have a version of the story I love, and nothing can match The Muppets’ Treasure Island. I’ve heard some people really lay into this movie, but I don’t think that’s fair, it’s a little flat and flimsy in places, but it entertains enough, and the ambition and decision to try something different in this era should be applauded.

Disney Score: 6/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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Film Review: How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

If sequels generally produce mixed results, then animated sequels have an even less impressive track record. Shrek is a great movie, but the sequels all deliver diminishing returns. Similarly, the Despicable Me, Madagascar and Ice Age series have all fallen off too. Even Pixar and Disney have had stumbles, and even their successes like Monsters University, Finding Dory and Cars 3 haven’t quite lived up to the first films. Last year both The Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet fell a little short for me, and I’m slightly nervous about Frozen 2 coming out later this year.

Of course, there’s always an exception to the rule, and the obvious example is the Toy Story trilogy (hopefully not about to be wrecked by a needless fourth instalment), which used the sequels to develop and move the characters forward in a satisfying way. Toy Story 3, the emotional finale to the trilogy, served as a perfect place to leave the characters, and it’s a similar vibe that is pursued here, a send off for the dragon Toothless and his viking buddy Hiccup (Jay Baruchel).

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Set some time after the second movie, we join Hiccup and his friends have continued to build Berk, their home, into a utopia where humans and dragons live in harmony. Hiccup’s dragon, Toothless, a rare Night Fury type, is the alpha of the dragons, their leader just as Hiccup is the tribal chief. Hiccup is determined to rescue as many dragons from captivity as he can, even as it puts strain on the island and it’s resources.

Things get trickier still when a new enemy enters the picture. Tired of having Hiccup scupper their plans to create a dragon army, a group of warlords contact Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), a notorious dragon slayer who has hunted down almost every Night Fury in existence, Toothless seemingly the last of his kind. Grimmel lives for the hunt and enjoys playing with his prey, and views Hiccup’s dream of dragon and human harmony as folly.

One of Grimmel’s assets is a rare Light Fury, a related species which he uses to distract Toothless and hopefully drive a wedge between the dragon and the chief. Hiccup’s decision is to flee from Grimmel, taking all the Berkians and dragons to the mythical Hidden World, where they will be safe.

Can he outsmart Grimmel, who seems to know his every move? Can he overcome his fears that without Toothless he is nothing and not worthy of being chief? Will the Berkians agree to the new plans? And will Toothless leave him for his new love?

I really liked this movie because it handles the crisis that Hiccup goes through in a really subtle and emotional way. In the first movie we’re introduced to the nerdy and weedy Hiccup, and it’s only after he befriends Toothless that he starts to achieve things and gain status among the vikings. After the death of his father he has to take charge, and finds himself forced to make difficult choices.

As Toothless begins to pull away and some of his plans go awry, we see Hiccup start to worry that without his dragon he’s nothing and not fit to lead. It’s down to his girlfriend and right hand woman, Astrid (America Ferrera) to convince him he’s more than just a dragon rider, and help him to realise who he really is. While Astrid is a good, strong female character the relationship is never really developed, or given greater depth. The audience from previous films are already invested, but there’s always been a sense of it just having happened, not having developed naturally or believably. But really, it’s just a subplot, as the films are really about a boy and his dragon.

Hiccup and Toothless’ friendship has always been the heart of the series, and this continues here. Always at each other’s side and happiest together in the air, the duo are forced to deal with what life may be like apart. Toothless, his tail damaged in youth, can only fly thanks to a rudder built and controlled by Hiccup, and Toothless gives the one legged Hiccup more freedom than he would have. They compliment each other and live almost in symbiosis.

But the arrival of the Light Fury on the scene throws this into jeopardy, as she is less trusting of the humans and Toothless can not pursue her. Hiccup having to decide to redesign the replacement tail attachment, not sure that Toothless will choose to return and he may lose his friend and control over the dragons is a tough choice. Unfortunately, the film passes over it very quickly and it would have benefited from having Hiccup struggling with it more.

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There’s a whole theme of growing up in this film, with the central friendship being a symbol of youth that both characters may have to discard as they mature. It’s a nice theme throughout the film, and really works because it shows that we often have to give up things we love in order to grow and for the greater good. This of course, sets up some emotional scenes in the closing stages, as Hiccup has to set aside some of his dreams and say goodbye to his old friend.

The final scene, set years later, has a genuine heartwarming feeling, a sense of continuing friendship and an optimistic suggestion that mankind can change, and Hiccup’s dream of living with dragons may one day be achievable.

Hiccup’s love of the dragons, and desire to live peacefully with them is in direct contrast with the villains, who seek to exploit and use the dragons for their own ends. There’s a kind of subtle green message, about how we need to work with nature, to preserve it as we benefit, and not to just destroy it for our own ends. It’s never hammered home but that’s what I drew from it.

It helps that the visuals are stunningly beautiful, and the design of the dragons, which come in a variety of interesting and unique breeds, is inventive and imbues the creatures with a sense of character and personality about them. And the film has plenty of laugh out loud moments and decent gags. It’s one of those movies that does almost everything right, and serves as a really good farewell to the world the films have built.

It’s not up there with Toy Story, but this rounds off a charming and entertaining trilogy in a fitting way, it just could have had a little more depth in places.

Verdict: 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: He Who Hesitates by Ed McBain

I returned to the 87th Precinct and discovered a very different story, with Ed McBain pushing his team of detectives to the fringes of the story, and the narrative following an outside character exclusively.

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Roger Broome is a craftsman who has come to the city to sell his wares and, having achieved this, should really be heading home to his small town home where he lives with his mother. But before he goes back, he needs to talk to the police and tell them what happens.

But while he heads to the 87th precinct to talk to a detective on a cold February morning he is held up by various errands and his attraction to the young woman who works at one of the shops he visits. Slowly, as the day progresses he reflects on what he needs to talk to the cops about and debates his choices for his future. Will he tell the police what he knows? Will he risk starting a new life with the woman he has met? Or will he just go on home to mother?

I really loved this book, which unfolds at a decent pace and works well for returning readers as we get to see Detectives Carella, Hawes, Meyer and Parker from a fresh perspective, judged by a stranger on their brief encounters.

It’s an interesting instalment in the series as it differs greatly from the regular format and style, giving a more psychological aspect as the protagonist deals with his issues of insecurity, remorse and unease. It’s fairly obvious what’s going on with the character about a quarter of a way through but up until this point McBain keeps you guessing, and there’s an uncomfortable building tension to the closing stages as a supporting character is placed in a dangerous situation. I started to worry the ending was going to be a bleak one, and it kept me clicking through on my Kindle. The ending, when it arrives, seems both fitting and unsatisfying, but in a way that makes sense and you suspect may be closer to reality than we’d like.

It’s wonderfully written, with stark imagery and some well observed dialogue, although it lacks the humour of most of the other books, possibly because our focus here is such a tightly wound character. It’s a brave departure for the series and an involving read, but I can’t help but hope we get Carella and Co back on centre stage next time.

Verdict: 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


SPONSOR ME!!!: Quarter Marathon Walk

One of the items on my bucket list is to raise £1 million for charity. It’s a big ask and so I’m approaching it as a long term goal that I’m slowly chipping away at.

Last year, thanks to the Sport Relief walking challenges and the Children in Need Countryfile Ramble along with a few other smaller things, I raised £381.86.

A long way to go!

Now, I don’t want to bombard people I know all the time, so I’m trying to do 2-3 things a year, and the first one this year is in aid of Comic Relief.

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On March 7th I’m going to walk from Limpert Bay to Barry Island, a distance of around 7 miles, slightly more than a quarter of a marathon.

I know to some folks 7 miles won’t sound like a lot, but it’ll be the longest continuous walk I’ve ever done and it’s the first step on a journey that I will hope see me increase my stamina and fitness until I can walk greater distances.

I’m set my goal at £70, which is a tenner per mile. You can sponsor me from as little as £2 and it helps a great course which provides help and support for people all over the world. All donations, big and small will be greatly appreciated.

I’m hoping that I can raise more this year than last year, and it’d be great if you could help with that.

My sponsorship page is here.

Thanks for your time!

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: A-Z of Hell by Ross Kemp

It’s been kinda weird seeing Ross Kemp’s career develop, from Eastenders‘ hard man Grant Mitchell to a documentary presenter who has travelled to some of the world’s most dangerous places and covered some pretty grim subjects, like war, crime and extreme poverty.

Given the harsh background of his travels, it’s a little bit surprising that this book is largely good fun, with Kemp sharing a selection of anecdotes and misadventures from the making of his documentaries.

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Kemp’s writing has a no frills approach which works well and he has a real flair for some pretty stark imagery along the way. But the main thing that shines through is his sense of humour, with Kemp telling the stories with warmth and humour, and a willingness to poke fun at himself which is quite nice. Given his background for playing tough guys, and the slightly macho marketing for his shows, it’s quite nice to see him ‘fess up to being a softy actor, and being open about his fears and discomfort.

Kemp comes across well, as a regular guy who gets the mixed blessing of getting to see things most never will. Some of the things he talks about are extremely dark and distressing, and Kemp talks about the challenge of being a documentary filmmaker who can’t intervene and who has to refrain from judging, even when dealing with people who have committed heinous acts. It’s clear at times it’s a difficult thing for Kemp to do, but he shows compassion, empathy and way background and upbringing can shape or warp people’s behaviour and values.

It’s a great read, made up of short, entertaining stories and Kemp is a pleasant guide on the trip. An interesting and entertaining collection of stories, memories and survival tips from a man who has been in plenty of interesting situations.

Verdict: 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Disney Classics #36: Mulan

After Hercules, Disney stay with an action hero vibe with this story of a Chinese legend.

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The story follows Mulan (Ming-Na Wen), a free spirited girl who struggles with her place in a strict society where honour is highly prized. When China is threatened by a Hun horde every family is called upon to send a man to join the army. Her aging, injured father is the only male in the family, but fearing for his health Mulan steals his armour and takes his place, posing as a boy.

The family can’t go after her because to do so would be to risk exposure and the dishonour and punishment. And can only ask their ancestors to protect Mulan.

Of course, they need to add a few elements to make it more of a Disney movie, and these include giving Mulan two great sidekicks.

The first is a “lucky” cricket, given to her as a good luck charm, the second is Mushu a diminutive dragon voiced by Eddie Murphy. Mushu’s character is an interesting one as he’s acknowledged as being annoying by other characters and toes a fine line, almost tipping into irritating territory. Luckily, a fantastic script and Eddie Murphy’s dynamic performance keep him on the right side of the line. The rapid fire delivery and steady stream of wisecracks means that this is one of my favourite Murphy performances, on a par with his great work as Donkey in Shrek.

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Mushu is her guide but only because he accidentally destroyed the statue of the guardian the ancestors wanted to send. He latches onto Mulan as a way of restoring himself to glory in the ancestors’ eyes and to cover for his own mistake, and much of his advice is laughably bad.

He proves more of a hindrance than a help as she struggles to fit in with the men of the camp and her clumsiness lands her in the bad books of her commanding officer Li Shang (BD Wong). However, when she uses her wits to solve a problem he sets the men, she begins to win him over and becomes a skilled soldier.

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This transformation is, of course, shown in a montage. And what a montage! Right up there with the Rocky movies. Donny Osmond belts out an infuriatingly catchy but powerfully uplifting and motivating song in “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”, and the whole sequence is superb.

Seriously, if you are a runner or need to psych yourself up for something, stick this on your playlist. You won’t regret it. Even if it’s idea of what it takes to be a man are rather lofty:

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The music and sidekicks are very Disney, but the movie is different in other areas. Most notably, the villain and stakes at play. The villain Shan Yu (Miguel Ferrer) is quite intimidating, he has a physical presence that many Disney villains lack and his design, with hollow, dark eyes is more in keeping with a comic book villain.

He also has a cold blooded nature, and as this is set in war there is a lot of death, even if much is off screen. Mulan herself kills pretty much an entire army in an avalanche, the stand out action sequence. The action scenes in general are played rather well, with genuine peril and minimal amounts of slapstick.

Disney are often criticised for their use of old fashioned gender roles, but here we have a strong heroine. Mulan seizes control of her destiny and throughout shows courage, ingenuity and decency. She is a great character and a good role model, someone who carves her own place in the world and carries herself with determination and real heroism.

A fun, action filled adventure with solid music, great sidekicks and a simple, well told story.

Disney Score: 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Unfinished Business: A sort of review of Tattoos and Tequila by Vince Neil with Mike Sager

Motley Crue aren’t one of my favourite bands, probably not even troubling the top 20. That’s not a dig, I like a few of their songs and they were pretty ace when I saw them at Download a few years back, but musically they’re not the best and a lot of their fame comes from their off stage shenanigans.

The thing is, these excesses mean that the Crue are the band I’ve read the most about, having read the legendary, no holds barred oral history of the band The Dirt and bassist Nikki Sixx’s The Heroin Diaries, which sees Sixx reprint his diaries from 1987, with additional observations and reflections. Both are great reads, especially The Heroin Diaries, which presents a grim, detailed look into the life of a rock star trying to hold things together while in the grips of addiction.

So, when I saw a copy of lead singer’s autobiography on a charity stall I picked it up. Vince Neil is possibly the band member who comes across the worst in the other books, no mean feat as none of the band cover themselves in glory and show themselves to be self absorbed, petty and even cruel in places. And yet Neil is the least likeable. He lacks the slightly childish glee of Tommy Lee, or Sixx’s insight into his own failings. But, I felt it only fair to give him a chance to tell his side of the story in depth.

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The problem is that even given time and space to tell his story, Neil is hard to warm too, he “forgets” several moments and stories, especially those which paint him in the worst light, and he clings to old grievances and grinds his axes frequently. There are shots at his band mates throughout, with only a few grudging acceptances of their skill or role in his success.

The book is told pretty much in straight interview style, with the questions removed, and while this could work as a way of him telling the story, it fails because Neil keeps going off on tangents, talking about his businesses and the way he’s designed the bar that the interview takes place in. It takes the conversational tone a bit too far and makes it a meandering retelling which often distracts. When Neil talks about the upholstery or the memorabilia around him, we can’t see it and it adds little.

It’s a shame as the introduction, written from the perspective of his scribe Mike Sager, is solid. Sager is almost brutal in his honesty, talking about Motley Crue and Neil’s limitations as musicians, summarising their success and excess, and skewering some of Neil’s pompous traits. It’s a great opening and you feel that the book would have benefited from Sager having more input, chiming in with clarifications, corrections and his own observations.

As it is, the book just feels like one man rambling about  his own greatness and success while grumbling about those who have done him wrong. I got about a third of the way in and had to give up, I just couldn’t take it any more, Neil seems utterly unable to fully own his mistakes or reflect in any depth. A family member talks about how he loves to be the centre of attention and liked by others and it shows, as he seems unwilling to show any vulnerability or confess to things which might be judged harshly.

Lacking depth or wit, this just failed to hook me.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Fat Boy on a Diet: January 2019 Update: Good Start

I’m slightly wary of being too happy with how well January has gone, because there’s twelve months in a year and 2018 started strongly before I hit a wobble.

However, I am feeling pretty proud of myself. After the Christmas excess I got back on track quite quickly, while still being able to enjoy a couple of treats for WoM’s birthday at the start of the month. We went up to Saddleworth for it, and we managed to go on some pretty awesome walks around the beautiful countryside there.

The walking has helped a lot, and I’ve smashed my 125 mile Race at Your Pace target for the month, so two resolutions are going well so far. All the extra walking is really helping me feel better and more energised and I’ve got some stuff I’m thinking of doing later in the year which should help even more and give me a goal to work towards.

I’ve also been eating a bit better and while still having a few treats am resisting temptation a bit better, partly because I get a good feeling when my weigh ins show positive results.

I’m pretty chuffed that in one month I’ve managed to shift 10.5 lbs, and this means I’ve passed the 1.5 stone mark in total. Before Christmas I was charting it week by week, but I’ve decided to go back to a monthly loss/gain count instead.

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At the start of the year I came up with a vague goal of wanting to lose around half a stone a month, which should add up to a substantial loss in 2019, and January shows that I can achieve that. Here’s to June going just as well.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

I’ve never read any James Patterson before, which is unusual as the guy is a writing phenomenon, cranking out 147 novels in the last 43 years, which works out at about three and a half books a year. That’s unbelievably prolific. I’ve seen a couple of the Alex Cross movies, based on his most famous character, a cop who tracks down serial killers, so I was a bit surprised to pick this up at a charity book stall and discover he had co-written a sci-fi thriller.

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The premise of this book is pretty simple, animals are turning on humans, acting abnormally and viciously. But why? And can it be stopped?

One of the problems with the book is that the premise is laughably daft, the whole man vs nature vibe coming across like a pumped up rework of The Birds, or the set up for a B movie, possibly starring Nicholas Cage. That’s not to say that it’s not entertaining, with the story unfolding in short, fast chapters which keeps the action flowing quickly enough for the reader not to stop and think too hard. It’s throwaway stuff, but entertaining enough.

There are a couple of plot holes which are never fixed, for example, our hero, Jackson Oz, has devoted himself to his theory of HAC aka Human-Animal Conflict. It’s cost him his academic career and trashed any reputation he could have held, leaving him viewed as a nutty conspiracy theorist. He’s broke, obsessively devoted to his cause, and in a downward spiral as it takes over his whole life. Oz is a true believer, that much is clear. So, why does the character take in a chimpanzee? If you thought animals were about to rise up against mankind you’d probably be reluctant to look after a neighbour’s hamster, let alone welcome a creature that can f**k you up easily into your home.

There’s also a bit of a cheat along the way, with a five year time jump, taking us from the early rumbles of nature declaring war to a more full blown scenario. It means that Oz and Chloe’s relationship goes from them having just met to having been married for a few years without any work put into creating a bond, it just happens in the gap.

Similarly, the perspective shifts frequently. Most is narrated by Oz, but there are also third person interludes dealing with poor suckers who get mauled by various critters, and even from the perspective of Attila, Oz’s former pet chimp. It’s inconsistent and seems to have been done to illustrate the global nature of the event, which makes you wonder why include any first person narration?

Oz is a likeable enough narrator, and adds a certain goofiness to proceedings, which is a good call as playing such a ridiculous premise completely straight would make it even dafter. There’s some nice tension, and kudos has to be given for turning a variety of different mammals into terrifying enemies, including a scene with a bunch of dolphins which is rather unsettling.

The curious thing is despite the silliness, there’s an unexpected weight in the closing stages, with the HAC serving as a metaphor for climate change. A solution is found near the end, but requires sacrifice and difficult living of mankind, will we adapt or is our selfishness and reliance on modern comforts too strong? It makes for an intriguing twist in the tale, and an uncomfortable reflection on humanity’s reluctance to change, even when the old ways are harmful.

Stupid, but a fun, quick read.

7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Disney Classics #35: Hercules

It’s weird that when I saw this movie in the cinema I wasn’t impressed, because it’s now become one of my favourite Disney flicks.

I think as a kid who had read about Hercules and seen him portrayed a bit more traditionally, this film wasn’t what I expected and wasn’t the all out action movie I was expecting. For example, Hades (James Woods) is the villain and Hercules’ background is changed, making him a full god, as the real story that Zeus liked to play around isn’t exactly kid friendly. It’s similar to why I never really liked The Sword in the Stone, because it was a watered down version of a legend I knew already, the difference being that as an adult watching this, I really like how they play around with the legend.71qzf6ebyil-_sy550_

So, the story here is that Hercules (Tate Donovan, as an adult) is the son of Zeus and Hera (Rip Torn and Samantha Eggar) and loved by all the gods, apart from Hades, his uncle, the moody, scheming god of the underworld. Hades has a plan to overthrow Zeus with the aid of the Titans, but the Fates warn him that if Hercules fights in the final battle, his plan will fail.

Hades sends his minions Pain and Panic (Bobcat Goldthwaite and Matt Frewer) to turn Hercules mortal and off him, but in the tradition of awful Disney henchmen, they mess it up, leaving him mortal but still super strong. Hades bides his time and prepares for his coup.

Meanwhile, Hercules grows up ostracized because of his strength. This part of the movie baffles me as the regular Greeks give Hercules a ton of grief which seems foolish because there’s running the risk of angering a dude they know can tear down whole buildings. Anyway, learning the truth about where he comes from, he discovers that if he proves himself a true hero he can return to Olympus.

And so Hercules heads out to find Phil aka Philocetes (Danny DeVito) the jaded trainer of heroes, who reluctantly agrees to help him. Hercules surprises and impresses him and soon becomes a hero, and Hades learns of his survival. Danny DeVito’s raspy tones are a delight here and the sarcastic, lecherous faun is great fun.

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Hades realizes he can use Hercules’ naivety against him and his attraction for Megara (Susan Egan), who is in Hades’ power having sold her soul. Meg agrees but slowly begins to have doubts, learning that Hercules is a genuinely nice guy.

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It’s this love story that is one of the major strengths of the movie, and is probably one of Disney’s best. Meg is introduced as a cynical figure, hardened by previous hurts and she’s lost faith in the goodness of people. Hercules’ idealistic, simple character makes her rethink this, and the slow softening of her stance and growing affection is well handled. As she slowly falls for Hercules she tries to maintain her detached air and distance, leading to one of my favourite Disney songs of all time, “I Won’t Say (I’m in Love)” where she tries to deny her feelings, arguing against the narrators and finally, reluctantly accepting that she is in love, although she won’t risk expressing it.

The love story also serves as the driving force for the plot, as it’s his love which leaves Hercules open to being manipulated, sacrificing his strength and allowing Hades to make his play. It’s here that Hades is smarter than the average villain, and instead of just disregarding Hercules, he still tries to eliminate him, sending a cyclops to attack him while he mounts his attack on Olympus. Despite his lack of powers Hercules goes out to face the giant, but is utterly outclassed and badly beaten.

Midway through Meg sacrifices herself to save him and in doing so voids the deal, as Hades promised her safety as part of the bargain. Hercules is restored and saves the day, before heading to the underworld to save Meg.

The film works because it manages to mix the action, music and story well. It’s a different kind of story for Disney, with a male protagonist and a more heroic, action orientated story. The themes of heroism, sacrifice and love are all handled brilliantly throughout.

Hercules is goofy and innocent, but never overly stupid and very easy to root for. There are some decent action sequences as he fights different monsters, and the training montage is straight out of an ’80s action movie.

Another factor which works is the fact that Disney play with the genre, and add a postmodern spin. This is done through the way the film shows Hercules becoming popular with the public, leading to merchandising, adoring fans and celebrity, which poke fun at some of Disney’s own merchandise and celebrity athletes.

There are nods to other films and a few jokes geared towards the adults watching, and nowhere is this more obvious than in James Woods’ Hades, a sarcastic tour-de-force. Woods’ vocal performance is sensational as he makes Hades a strangely likeable villain, funny and clever in places, but undermined by his inability to control his temper. Hades is easily one of my favourite Disney villains.

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I also really like the uses of the muses as a chorus throughout, explaining the plot through gospel inflected numbers. It’s strange because this was one of the aspects that I didn’t enjoy first time round, I think because I thought it was out of place and silly, which is exactly why as an adult I love it so much.

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The muses are a nice touch and their interruption of Charlton Heston’s opening narration is the movie showing it’s hand that it will be a more playful, anachronistic version of the legendary hero.

The muses also get some cracking songs along the way, especially “A Star is Born” and “Zero to Hero”, and the soundtrack is fantastic across the board, not just in furthering the story but as stand alone songs. “I Won’t Say (I’m in love)” is superb, as I already mentioned, but another absolute classic is Hercules’ “Go the Distance”, a rousing, soaring power ballad which I’ve added to my list of songs to pump myself up ahead of challenges.

The irreverent tone, unique art style and fantastic music mean that I love this movie now, giving a fresh, fun spin to an old legend and ticking a lot of boxes for me. An absolute cracker.

Disney Score: 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.