As Good As It Gets
The movie's neither hopeful in contrived ways, nor hopeless in different contrived ways. Somehow it manages to be wonderful
The film never slows down or bores, plunging from one harrowing sequence to the next.
1999 was a cinematic year marked by the seal of originality and self-questioning that fitted the upcoming New Millennium timing, it is also the year where animated movies like "Toy Story 2" and the "South Park" movie came out and they were so in-line within the modern mood of their era, that they might overshadow "Tarzan" despite not being as visually breathtaking.Indeed, for all its spectacular jungle canvas and spellbinding animation (the animators really outdid themselves), not to mention its heartfelt story not devoid of a few existential undertones, "Tarzan" might be too 'classic' for its own good. The film is often noticed for being the last of the Disney Renaissance era, and it is true that if we forget the sorry streak of straight to video sequels of the early 2000's, Disney had definitely surrendered to the CGI wave after that. But "Tarzan" was made a bit too late, when the pulse of animation was beating in 3D and when the torch of traditional animation had already passed to Hayao Miyazaki. "Chihiro's Travel" is light years ahead of "Tarzan".I liked Tarzan a lot despite my criticism, I loved the relationship he had with his environment and the character of Kala, his adoptive mother voiced by Glenn Close, who is certainly one of the most memorable mother figures of Disney canons. There must be something about Close's voice as she was also remarkable as Homer Simpson's mother. The character of Jane is also a nice twist on the usual love interest figure and Minnie Driver delivers a fine performance as a girl always in good mood, curious about everything and whose awkwardness with Tarzan is both touching and funny. I loved the lighthearted tone of the encounter between Tarzan and Jane, the way they both try to communicate (we get it that the English spoken with animals is just the usual artistic license and that it's meant to be a series of articulate grunts and adequate body language) and how a well-meaning Tarzan tries to fit between the two worlds. Voiced by Tony Goldwyn, Tarzan is certainly deeper than most Disney protagonists, torn between the love and friendship of some and the defiance of other, most notably, Kala's mate, voice by Lance Henrikssen, who refuses to recognize him as a son.We do root for Tarzan, he's certainly an engaging hero but just when ou try to except something really worthy of this character, the film just never feels like delivering something reasonably new and fresh, if we except the splendid special effects, but from the trailer, viewers already knew about the surfing across the trees sequences, perhaps one of Disney's greatest moments. The problem is that the relationships, as original as they are, fail to blow the mind of an audience who's seen "The Jungle Book", "Beauty and the Beast" or even "Pocahontas". The blame might also be on the weakness of the main villain (Brian Blessed) and the too distractingly old and goofy father (Nigel Hawthorne), I couldn't believe he would be Jane's father but Disney has a tendency to make little goofy midgets fathering beautiful and tall women, at least Tarzan looked like his real parents. Both the bad guy and the professor were rather dependable and maybe the story could have worked better without them, but I guess the purpose of the film was to culminate with a men vs. animal confrontation with Tarzan as the common denominator, but they could have found a more original climactic action sequence. The songs are touching and poignant like Phil Collins' songs but in a year where the "South Park" movie provided at least three Oscar-worthy songs, I won't forgive the Academy for having taken the easy choice. So I won't develop that chapter and will conclude by saying that "Tarzan" is certainly the last hurrah of Disney Renaissance and a great animated film in the sense that the animation is great and the story engaging but not to the point you'd want to watch it a second time.I'm a father and since today is Christmas, I just remembered I often bought Disney DVDs to my daughter and "Tarzan" is one of the rarest ones, there must be a reason, don't you think?
This movie is gorgeous! It makes me wish I was a better poet so I could do it justice with words. It is the reason why man makes pictures with colours. I could take any single frame, especially any single background, hang it on my wall and be perfectly happy with it. It's
beautiful beyond words, beyond my ability to express it properly.It's also the end of an era. The last film of the Disney Renaissance. There are still good Disney films to come, but never again have we had such a streak of quality, of ambition and willingness to push the limits of what you can do with animation. And as far as I'm concerned, they could have done a lot worse than this film as a swan song. They took a relatively simple, yet classic book by Edgar Rice Burroughs, which is very clearly a product of its time, and updated it to the next millennium. A man raised in the jungles of Africa and meeting people like him for the first time in his life is a brilliant basic idea for a story and Disney utilizes it beautifully, giving us a tale full of excitement, interesting characters, emotions, adventure, plots and betrayals, love and learning, courage and above all understanding.They've also updated the characters a little bit. Tarzan isn't quite as masculine and demigod-ish as he is in the book, and Jane isn't just a damsel to be rescued. Jane's father, the professor, is essentially the same though, which isn't a problem as his role is rather minimal, whereas the gorillas have been given some actual roles and characteristics. Unfortunately they failed Clayton utterly as a character, which is the only real problem with the film. I get that they needed a clearly defined villain for the film, but they have made layered villains before. Judge Frollo and Scar, for example. Both were clearly the villains of their films, but they had complicated motivations and were willing to utilize every advantage they had. Clayton is simply a big white hunter with a huge gun. Nothing interesting about that.Plus I'm personally rather annoyed by Rosie O'Donnell's Terk, but that's just me. The character is objectively just fine.All in all Tarzan fails to reach that all around perfection movies such as Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King have, but it's still one of my favourite Disney films, and definitely one of the best looking. The music is also great, the characters are great - with one glaring exception - and overall it's definitely under-appreciated for its sheer quality.
A different but brilliantly adapted version of Borough's classic novel. From the get go Tarzan will have you wide eyed and waiting to see what will happen next. The opening sequence is one of the most impressive I have ever seen in film. The opening sequence is just so powerful as it shows the contrast of the human family (infant Tarzan with his parents) and the gorilla family living happily before tragedy strikes both families which leads Kala to finding the baby Tarzan. All done without dialog, all done with the great song "Two Worlds" in the background.Changing Tarzan's adoptive family to gorillas worked well because it showed a more gentle side to these great apes, which are often depicted as savage bruits in such films as King Kong and Planet of the apes. Tony Goldwyn did a great job as Tarzan; he hit the right balance of fun loving, relaxed and also emotional when it was required. However, Glen Close gave a soft, angelic voice to Kala that only a mother could have and her bond with both the child and adult Tarzan was at the emotional soul of the film. This was contradicted perfectly by Henriksen's performance as the un-accepting and judgmental ape leader Kurchack. Jane, Tantor, Turk were all great characters that all did well with adding humor at the appropriate times and what I liked about Driver's performance was that she was neither the defiant heroine nor the damsel in distress but rather she was simply a girl who had come to an untamed land and became enchanted with the world of a man she would later fall in love with. I would even go as far as to say that Jane is one of Disney's best female leads.I also give the movie points for the animations, most adaptations would have Tarzan swinging through the trees, but here he actually surfs through the trees.However, I do feel that the villain (voiced by Brian Blessed) was slightly weak in comparison to other characters, Clayton is not very interesting in terms of motivation but I do feel he could have been more unique if he had been made to look younger, I would have preferred to see him have the looks of say John Smith from Pocahontas, he just seemed quite forgettable but held up in the film's final third. I also feel the film would have been more effective if Sabor was given a speaking part. Simply having the leopard growl and roar seemed to make him a brainless carnivore as opposed to an enemy and in my humble opinion Sabor would have been more intimidating if the had a speaking role to match his ferocity.The film's strongest point was it's music and Phil Collins and Mark Mancina joined forces to create one of the greatest soundtracks I have heard in a very long time. With the exception of "Trashing the camp" which was sung by Turk, Collins used his actual voice for all of the songs and tunes such as "Son of Man" or "Strangers like me" or the Oscar winning "You'll be in my heart" will all go down as classics and give the film for being original and not sticking to the traditional musical tone.As one of the final traditionally animated films to be considered a hit, and is probably the greatest depiction of the story of Tarzan ever put on the big screen. An absolute must see.
Robert Thompson (justbob1982)
Version: UK bluray releaseActors: 7/10Plot/script: 5/10Photography/visual style: 6/10Music/score: 4/10Overall: 6/10Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan has become a very cinematic legend over the century since his first story was published but, for me, the Disney version comes during one of the dips in the quality of their output. Their initial Golden Age ended with the Jungle Book, followed by a revival during the 80s and 90s. More recently, they've come back to the top again with The Princess and the Frog, Tangled and Frozen.It's interesting that both the directors of Tarzan were involved with this latest renaissance: Chris Buck co-directed Frozen (with Jennifer Lee), and Kevin Lima got it all started with Enchanted, which re-assessed the glittering Disney back-catalogue, and came away with an attitude that was affectionate, yes, but not actually reverential. Sadly, there is little evidence in Tarzan of that healthier relationship with the legacy.The setting is a problem, for me. I grew up with Disney films that each had a distinctive setting, be it Arabia or under the sea. However, The Jungle Book had already covered, erm, jungle, and The Lion King had done Africa. An adult perception says that the African jungle is distinct from both of these, but Disney are not about adult, subtle distinctions.Another problem with Tarzan is the soundtrack. I found Phil Collins' voice dull and detached throughout, and when I bothered to tune into the lyrics, they just explained what I could already see was going on on-screen, thus making them pointless. Okay, they got Elton John in to make good songs for The Lion King, and there are versions sung by him, but they are distinctly poorer in my book, and in the main film I am glad they stuck with the cast as singers.The animation is pretty good for the period, especially in the sequences where Tarzan is racing through the branches... although they are also suspiciously reminiscent of a roller-coaster ride, coming from the company that must always be on the lookout for new Disneyland attractions. The movements of Tarzan and his ape 'family' are also well-observed, I was pleased to note.Such a shame, then, that the character of Tarzan himself (as voiced by Tony Goldwyn) is so unengaging. I'm not sure why it is; he certainly has enough character drama, what with an identity crisis and overall coming-of-age in classic film style. Maybe it's because they have set aside the traditional Tarzan symbol of masculinity in favour of something more vulnerable and adolescent; a defensible choice, but one that requires real attention to detail to instigate. He just didn't quite grab me... in stark contrast to his love interest, Jane (Minnie Driver). Driver was at the height of her powers back in 1999, and brings to the role the confidence of an actress in charge of her destiny. She has so much more screen magnetism and, quite frankly, I would have preferred it if she had just been the main character throughout. Maybe Tarzan's development would have been more interesting through her eyes.Oh, and TWENTY-ONE story writers! What's that all about? There's barely enough story here for one writer, once you take out the contributions of Burroughs and the screenwriters. It would appear that they just gave a writing credit to everyone who did some work on designing the characters or settings. Office politics, I guess.For my full review, see my independent film blog on Blogspot, Cinema Inferno: http://cinemainferno-blog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/tarzan-1999.html