It’s with great shock that I’m forced to report that Disney’s Treasure Planet may be the company’s least cloying cartoon in years. Jim Hawkins gets himself in trouble with the local police and has his aerial surfboard confiscated. After a sketchy encounter with the turtle Billy Bones, Jim comes to believe in the legend of Captain Flint and his even more legendary treasure. With the help of Dr. Delbert Doppler (Goofy anyone?), Jim sets off for the outer limits of the planet Montressor aboard the RLS Legacy. It’s considerably rough going for the film’s first third: the writers take absolutely no pains in explaining how John Silver and his mutineer posse learned the particulars of the Doppler-financed reconnaissance mission. Goo Goo Doll Johnny Rzeznik’s songs for the film are considerably less ham-fisted than Bryan Adams’s frontier anthems for Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron, though the overall effect is more or less the same when the tune is set to vignettes detailing Jim’s teenage angst. In the end, though, Jimmy’s thinly veiled abandonment issues (he calls his father the “taking off and never coming back sort”) serves to set up his complex, surprisingly nuanced relationship to John Silver, arguably Disney’s most multi-dimensional “villain” to date. The sidekicks here range from the adorable (Morph, Silver’s pink shape-shifting pet) to the subversive (the neurotic B.E.N., a C3PO-like robot lost on Treasure Planet). As voiced by Martin Short, B.E.N. has all the energy but none of the annoyances of a Robin Williams genie-in-a-bottle. Emma Thompson especially stands out as Captain Amelia, the RLC Legacy’s feline commander. Thompson’s Brit cattiness should appeal to adults and teenagers. Sadly, Treasure Planet‘s excitement level may be too old-fashioned to sedate small children. The film’s backgrounds are often textureless and while the combination of hand-held animation and 3D virtual designs doesn’t always work, the film is alive with a rollicking sense of adventure that brings to mind the bookish charms of undervalued Disney cartoons like The Rescuers and The Black Cauldron. For added effect, catch this one on an IMAX screen.
- Ron Clements, John Musker
- Ken Harsha, Barry Johnson, Kaan Kalyon, Mark Kennedy, Sam Levine, Donnie Long, Frank Nissen, Terry Rossio
- Roscoe Lee Browne, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Hyde Pierce, Mona Marshall, Martin Short, Emma Thompson, Michael Wincott
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