The good news is: nobody sings.
The bad news is that Disney’s “Atlantis” bears all the other smudged fingerprints of Disney Studios. It is a Disney product through and through.
That right there is enough to make some people ill, like too much cotton candy before the tilt-o-whirl.
Others will claim to despise it as a product of the Disney mill, while secretly they’re really afraid of crying at the sappy ending.
The other good news?
A not-too-sappy ending.
In fact, it’s not the middle or end of this 93-minute animated eye candy that fails (though they give “Titan A.E.” a run for its money as the plot-hole champion of animated adventure) but the beginning.
Beginning, this film could be “Beauty and the Beast” for all we know, with a pointy-chinned avatar of Michael J. Fox as Beauty. It’s that formulaic.
Why do all Disney Films have to feature a ridiculously “under” dog – oh, why can’t a Disney hero be heroic?
He or she could still be vulnerable, modeled along the lines of a Harrison Ford or Humphrey Bogart character.
But no. The Disney hero must begin as a clumsy simpleton with idiotic dreams. You can’t root for that. I mean, must all men must be mice?
Can’t we begin from somewhere besides less-than-zero?
The soft-headedness of the Disney formula is appalling.
However, the story:
Milo Thatch (Voiced by Fox) has a map to Atlantis.
Benignly mad venture capitalist Preston B. Whitmore
(John Mahoney, the dad on TV’s “Frasier”) has a submarine and the Atlantean Princess, Kidagakash (the divinely tattooed Cree Summer) has a strange crystal that glows pale blue.
It matches her cool blue tattoos.
Within five minutes the sub is sunk by some gigantic Atlantean sea creature (oops, spoiler) and the real movie can begin.
The rest of the rag-tag crew is filled out with oddball, misfit characters, including Phil Morris (Love Boat: The Next Wave) as the ship’s doctor and Don Novello (better known as Father Guido Sarducci) as the demolitions expert.
These guys are funny, especially Novello, who has impeccable comic timing, memorable dialogue (must be ad-libbed) and the same flaky Italian accent you remember from old Saturday Night Live episodes rerun on Comedy Cenral.
Then there’s a villainous jarhead, with the voice of James Garner and the physique of an aging, cartoon Schwartzenegger.
The rest of the characters are so wacky and farfetched they scarcely deserve mention except for the rather eerie fact that one of them is voiced by the late Jim Varney (“Ernest Scared Stupid”).
This is the second animated film to feature Varney after his death (the last one being “Toy Story 2”) and the creepy feeling comes over one that we may be hearing (or seeing) more of this fine character actor yet.
Strangely enough, another (live action) film was due for limited release this summer, “Daddy & Them” starring Varney.
Ernest Rides Again, indeed.
The plot is contrived, the comedy too often falls flat, the characters are hard to know or like and the animation is that weird mix of hand drawn cells and computer generated morphola that makes one a little dizzy, yearning for an anchor for the eye.
But it looks good, and Atlantis is well conceived, if just slightly too New Age (in a movie about Atlantis? Couldn’t the filmmakers have given our expectations just the least bit of a dodge?)
By far the most innovative aspect, by Disney standards, is that the female love interest has (gasp) hips!