Hercules (1997) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Hercules is a mediocre Disney animated film released during their era of market dominance. After The Little Mermaid reignited the creative flames at the “mouse house”, every summer throughout the nineties saw the premiere of Disney’s latest guaranteed smash hit. Each title released during that decade was a massive financial success, not just in ticket sales, but in merchandise, television spin-offs, and Oscar nominations. Not, only were these animated pictures amongst the top fifteen grossing films in their given year, they frequently appeared on year-end “best of” lists. So, it’s a little startling to happen upon 1997s Hercules which seems to strive for the heights of its peers, but ends up a low point in the era of excellence for Disney.

Zeus has sent his brother Hades to rule the fiery pits of hell. This causes a feud between the Gods which is amplified when Hades sends his minions to kidnap Zeus’s son, Hercules, and turn the toddler into a mortal. The plan is foiled by a shepherd and his wife who happen upon the crying infant and take him as their own child. By the time puberty has arrived Hercules is clearly not like the other boys, he possesses god-like strength and courage, but this makes him an outcast to his peers.

James Woods has the most fun with his part voicing the motor-mouthed Hades. It was criticized at the time for being a second-rate Robin Williams as Gene attempt, but it actually feels more like a spoof of Hollywood talent agents. Danny DeVito is also amusing as the trainer who serves as the “Mickey” character to Hercs’ “Rocky”. The unmemorable music is composed by Alan Menken. The visual style is pleasant, but clearly moving towards the direction of the computer-aided animation technique that would come to dominate the medium in just two years time.

Directors: John Musker, Ron Clements
Stars: Tate Donovan, Danny DeVito, James Woods,

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