Facts and Figures
Run time: 88 mins
In Theaters: Friday 18th June 1999
Distributed by: Buena Vista Pictures
Production compaines: Constantin Film Produktion, Ambient Entertainment GmbH
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Fresh: 92 Rotten: 12
IMDB: 7.2 / 10
The 90th film based on the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, this German-made animated romp adds little to the century-old canon besides some motion-capture action and an eco-friendly message. But it's a watchable adventure with thrilling set-pieces and engaging characters, even if the animation isn't quite up to par and the plot feels thoroughly contrived.
It opens by going back millions of years to the dinosaurs being wiped out by a mystical meteor that sinks into the middle of Africa and sends out moody vibes. In the present day, investigating archaeologists are killed in a helicopter crash, but their 4-year-old son JJ Greystoke (voiced by Garner) survives and is raised by a kindly gorilla mother. Renaming himself Tarzan, the "ape with no hair", the teenaged Tarzan (now Zetterholm) has his first run-in with humans, meeting Jane (Locke), daughter of his father's former colleague Jim (Bubb). But it's a few years later before Tarzan (now Lutz) runs into Jane again, and she's now in danger because company boss Clayton (St. John) is manipulating her into participating in his evil plan.
Tarzan fans will enjoy the continual references to years of books, movies and comics, including an unusually sexy "me Tarzan, you Jane" subplot that has a surprising spark of chemistry. And the gorillas are beautifully rendered as strong characters with a fascinating culture all their own (thankfully they don't speak). Even so, everything feels oddly simplistic, mainly because the plot demands that we feel some sympathy for this simmering meteor, which needs to be undisturbed for a reason that never quite makes sense.
There's also the problem that Jane is little more than a damsel who is constantly in distress and needs Tarzan to rescue her. And while both characters have a vivid physicality to them, they also have that dead-eyed virtual-reality look that makes them a bit creepy. The adept voice cast manages to add some life behind those eyes, while the action sequences provide some genuinely exciting moments. But the environmental message would have been much stronger if the plot wasn't so relentlessly corny.