One opposable thumb down. Disney breaks with its own traditions with this lushly animated retelling of Edgar Rice Burroughs's famous tale of an Englishman raised by apes: It's wildly kinetic, overtly violent and hardly a musical at all. In fact, the most "Disney"
thing about it is the blockheaded choice of source material. There are no Africans in this Africa, but there is a colony of anthropomorphic apes who happen to speak English (at least to one another), live in social groups and love their children not unlike their European counterparts. Soon
after her baby is devoured by a leopard, gentle gorilla Kala (voiced by Glenn Close) happens upon the blood-smeared treehouse of a shipwrecked English couple and saves their orphaned son from becoming leopard lunchmeat. Kala takes the hairless creature back to her gorilla nest where, deaf to the
intolerance of her neighbors and gorilla patriarch Kerchak (Lance Henriksen), she names him Tarzan and raises him as her own. Tarzan grows up happy but senses something's not quite right: Mom's awfully dark and hairy, and her thumb's in the wrong place. Worse, Tarzan can't win the acceptance of
"father" Kerchak and courts disaster when he tries to integrate "his own kind" a newly arrived team of English explorers, including fortune-hunting Clayton (Brian Blessed), a well-meaning primatologist (Nigel Hawthorne) and his dotty daughter Jane (Minnie Driver) into the ape clan.
Once again Disney is faced with retrofitting reactionary and essentially racist source material to suit its own liberal agenda and, unfortunately, enough of Burroughs's original text remains to monkey-wrench the whole thing. Ostensibly it's about a mother's unconditional love, but it's hard not to
read the film in racial terms and the result is a confused mess of mixed signals that substitutes a brutal climax for any kind of satisfactory resolution. Parents should be warned about the frequent gunfire and a grisly death by hanging.
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