I remember seeing Tarzan in theatres the summer it was released and enjoying it quite a bit. Pretty graphics, lousy music (I am really not a fan of Phil Collins) and that bizarre dreadlocked hair. I haven't seen the movie since, so I'm curious to see how my opinion has evolved in the decade since. Seanie and I borrowed a badly deteriorated video from the library. (Annoying fact: the day we returned the video, the DVD was on the library shelves. If only it had been there the day before! Le sigh.)
It's a great story. A family is shipwrecked on a deserted island, and after the parents are killed their infant son is adopted by a family of gorillas. Named Tarzan by the apes, the boy grows up unexposed to modern humanity until a father-daughter team of explorers come to the island, seeking to study gorillas. Leading their expedition is Clayton, a sarcastic man with a cruel streak and his own designs on the gorillas, once they're located.
Tarzan's character design is really...interesting. His chin is huge, and so sharply angled I'm surprised Jane never worries about getting impaled. His waist is tiny; in some shots it is even smaller than his head. His hair looks like dreadlocks but flows fluidly in the breeze, defying logic. But somehow all of these random, weird elements work together and create a pretty good-looking character. The Disney animation team did a great job with his movement and body language. When Tarzan knuckle-walks with the gorillas, it looks incredibly convincing. I mean, he doesn't look like he's trying to imitate ape-like movements; he moves that way because that's how you move when you're an ape. I've never seen any of the live-action Tarzan movies, but I wonder if any of them rendered his ape-like movements so convincingly.
Other characters are pretty standard for Disney animation. Jane's face bugged me a little. The proportions seemed a little off with her eyes so big and her nose a little too twee, but I'm just quibbling. Overall the movie looks awesome. The jungle backgrounds are lush and vividly colored. Whenever Tarzan goes swinging through the vines it's a visual treat.
The soundtrack still makes me cringe, though. I mean, I didn't like his work with Genesis and don't care for the hit songs of his solo career, and there was very little to like about his work in Tarzan. It was nice to see Disney move away from the Broadway bombasticity of previous films, with the songs in the background rather than erupting from characters' throats. But ugh! I hate Collin's screechy vocals, and the lyrics are completely bland and forgettable.
Also, was not happy with Rosie O'Donnell's character Turk, a female gorilla that is Tarzan's best friend. Is she supposed to be older or younger than Tarzan? If the same age, shouldn't Turk be the size of a full-grown gorilla by the time Jane shows up? Why is she leading a group of male gorillas? Hell, why isn't she knocked up and making gorilla babies? If the character of Turk was a male, I don't think I would care, but it's a girl...so it's weird. Maybe I'm thinking about it too much. I mean, why do I not object to a bacteria-phobic elephant if I"m suddenly paranoid about animal behavior accuracy? Maybe O'Donnell's voice work just irritated me...
The final scene with Clayton and Tarzan? Best elimination of a Disney villain ever.
7/10 stars. Most of the deductions are for the soundtrack.