Growing up is not an easy thing to do. Jim Hawkins, Disney’s newest hero in Treasure Planet, lives this statement.
The audience first sees Jim as an adorable 3-year-old who believes in legends and dreams big. Fast forward 12 years, and Jim is a thrill-seeking teenager, complete with ponytail and rebellious attitude, who solar surfs (like windsurfing, without the water) without a care in the world and looks for the next great adrenaline rush.
The magic of Disney animation has always been its ability to put two-dimensional characters on paper and make them believable. Treasure Planet and the characterization of Jim Hawkins are no less magical than any of the predecessors.
Treasure Planet, based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel Treasure Island, puts a sci-fi spin on a Victorian classic. Instead of the usual cast of villagers, Disney has populated Jim’s home planet with all kinds of aliens and turned boring sailing ships into solar-powered star ships that float through the galaxy alongside Orcas Galacticus (space whales).
The film has elements that Disney will never be able to avoid. Jim, voiced by Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, after all, has a heart of gold. There are the bad guys, the cyborg Silver, Brian Murray, and his motley crew of cutthroats, and the comic relief. Returning for his second Disney movie, David Hyde Pierce, as the dog-like Dr. Delbert Doppler, embodies biting wit and skittishness — picture C-3PO. Also, B.E.N., voiced by funnyman Martin Short, makes the audience laugh at the tensest moments.
Treasure Planet lives up to its Disney heritage. Artistically, the movie is stunning, with computer-generated images and hand-drawn scenes flowing seamlessly. Plotwise, the movie also succeeds. After all, the book is more than 100 years old, and the translation of settings, from 18th-century England to outer space, is an easy one.
Whether Treasure Planet will bring in the box office revenue Disney is looking for this holiday season remains to be seen. But parents looking for a kid-friendly action flick with a good story and an admirable hero can stop their search.
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