Atlantis: The Lost Empire Movie Review

The song-and-dance numbers are out. The cheery sidekicks are nowhere to be seen. The predictable villains in black are nonexistent. This summer, Disney comes out with both guns blazing, literally, in its newest animated feature Atlantis: The Lost Empire, an imaginative and eye-popping mix of action, adventure, and sweeping vision landscapes filled with gorgeous computer enhanced animation.

Continuing on its recent arc of solid storylines in its animation and quality visuals, Atlantis is successful in both being a wide-eyed roller-coaster ride for kids and is interesting enough to keep adults from passing out from boredom. The film follows the adventures of Milo Thatch (Michael J. Fox), a bookworm/boiler room attendant/linguistics expert who probably hasn't had a date in years. Milo's grandfather was an explorer looking for Atlantis who knew where to discover the location of the lost city -- in a hidden journal. With the help of eccentric billionaire Preston Whitmore (John Mahoney), the lost journal is recovered, providing new clues to Atlantis's whereabouts. Milo then joins a group of rag-tag explorers -- including a 200-person Navy, enough surplus to take over a small county, and no cute sidekicks -- in the search for the city of Atlantis.

Simple, straightforward, and very, very Disney.

Surprisingly, the film is filled with ferocious gun battles with robot monsters and crazed capitalists, extraordinary cell animation infused with CGI wickedness, and a plot more full of holes than a Corleone. Disney pushes the conservative American envelope with the inclusion of authentic gun usage in combat sequences, a large body count, and various characters who are either pyromaniacs, chain-smokers, or twisted French perverts obsessed with dirt. And I never knew Atlantian girls were so hot! Disney even manages to lambast the capitalist lifestyle of the adventurers intent on uncovering the lost city. Damn the imperialists! (And all this on a PG rating.)

Theme aside, Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise -- the directors of Beauty and the Beast and Hunchback of Notre Dame -- have crafted one of Disney's best animation feats to date. The action is strong and well defined, the character development is substantial, and the cell and CGI animation is superb on all levels.

Let's just hope the Atlantis Happy Meal doesn't include a Gatling gun accessory for the kiddies.

Disney's DVD includes an entire second disc of supplemental making-of material. The jury doesn't seem to agree that Atlantis is worthy of the same type of treatment that, say, A Bug's Life has received... but if you're a fan of the film, you'll definitely want to check out the bonus footage.

All aboard the giant sea slug.


Atlantis: The Lost Empire Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: PG, 2001


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