Disney’s “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” has a lot going for it. An adventure cartoon with fantastic effects, funny one-liners, clever action sequences, and spectacular new worlds and, as an added bonus, it’s even missing the normally required musical numbers. So, why is the result so lackluster? There is a certain charm that is missing from Disney’s previous animated epics which probably has a lot to do with the fact that this summer’s other family animated film Shrek, is just so darn good. Watching “Atlantis” after seeing
Shrek is like eating a plain McDonald’s hamburger after having a full course steak dinner at an expensive restaurant. They both consist of meat, Shrek is just made from a much higher grade.
Michæl J. Fox lends his voice acting talents as adventurer Milo who dreams of finding Atlantis. The lost city was swept under the ocean thousands of years ago and is said to possess a power source that could save mankind from future energy crises. A friend of Milo’s grandfather funds an expedition since he lost a bet to the crotchety guy years ago. So a cross-section of cute characters that include a dirt-obsessed French guy, a Black doctor, an Italian explosives expert (voiced hilariously by an actor whose name I guarantee you won’t recognize but who brought life to Father Guido Sarducci on SNL) and a female Latino engineer (complete with baggy pants which I was unaware was a trend dating all the way back to the early 1900s.) Led by a brick shithouse commander played by James Garner, the intrepid crew head off in a sleek submarine right out of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” only to have it handily destroyed by a giant Atlantis gate-keeping, robot lobster. This quickly pairs the crew down from a few hundred people now to about 25 personnel. It’s nice to see Disney finally include a little death and mayhem, which I’m sure helped, earned “Atlantis” its PG rating. After a long journey they reach the lost city, find the power source along with a hot Atlantean princess and must wrestle with the moral issue of taking it from the people it preserves.
Atlantis has all the right ingredients — clever writing, quick wit, laugh out loud one-liners, and even a Star Wars-like attack-on-the-Death-Star climactic action finale. There’s even great voice acting from everyone from Mark (Luke) Hamill, Leonard (Spock) Nimoy and the late Jim Varney. It’s just that all these elements amount to something we’ve seen before in other films. It’s all too predictable. We know this story too well, or rather, I know this story too well and I know I’m just supposed to sit back, enjoy it, buy my kids the toys and happy meal and move on but all I could think of while watching “Atlantis” was when “Shrek 2” would be hitting theaters. Poor Disney, they now have a real competitor in the family film business and it’s a big, green oaf from Dreamworks.