Hercules (1997)

Directed by: Ron Clements/John Musker

Written by: Ron Clements/John Musker/Donald McEnery/Bob Shaw/Irene Mecchi/Kaan Kalyon/Kelly Wightman/Randy Cartwright/John Ramirez/Jeff Snow/Vance Gerry/Kirk Hanson/Francis Glebas/Mark Kennedy/Bruce M. Morris/Don Dougherty/Thom Enriquez

Based on Greek mythology

One step forward, two steps back.

Hercules tells the story of a young man who is the son of Zues and Hera (Rip Torn and Samantha Eggar). As a baby, he’s kidnapped by Pain and Panic (Bobcat Goldthwaite and Matt Frewer) at the behest of Hades (James Woods). They’re supposed to turn him mortal and then kill him. Of course, they screw it up and he ends up keeping his god-like strength and being raised by farmers in Kansas…er…Greece (Hal Holbrook and Barbara Barrie).

Eighteen years later, Hades thinks Herc (Tate Donovan) is dead. When he finds out that he’s not he starts to throw everything he can at Herc to kill him. But Herc is being trained by Philoctetes (Danny DeVito) and he’s about to become a “True Hero” and go back to Mount Olympus, so nothing works. Then he throws Megara (Susan Egan) at him. She’s a street-wise girl who owes him big. Of course, she falls for Herc and myths are born.

Hades uses her to get to Herc, gets Herc to give up his powers for 24 hours, and releases the Titans to destroy Mount Olympus so he can take over.

This ain’t your ancestor’s Greek mythology. And not just because he’s called Heracles in Greece and Hercules in Rome. But, if you’ll remember, Herc was born half human because Zues had an affair. Hera is actually the villain of the traditional story, not Hades. But infidelity isn’t an easy sell in Disney, so they had to change that. Which kinda changes the entire story.

But, whatever. Hercules, like so many myths, is just a story. It can be changes to suit the times and probably SHOULD be changed to fit what’s going on in the world. New lessons need to be taught with some of these old stories. They did it once with the Bible. Maybe it’s time to do it again?

Anyway, the most memorable part of this movie is Hades. James Woods is almost as good as Robin Williams in Aladdin. (And that’s not easy to say, because James Woods is an asshat.) I love everyone else in the movie, and they’re fun, but they’re all kinda stunt casting. Paul Shaffer as Hermes? Amanda Plummer as one of the Fates? Charlton Heston as the (short-lived) narrator? A little too pat, right?

One bit of stunt casting they didn’t catch: Tisha Campbell should have been one of the Muses/Greek Chorus girls. Honestly.

The music is fun, but still not to the level of Aladdin or Lion King. Just like Hunchback, I don’t have much of a memory of it once it’s over.

The true weak link here might be the animation. It’s fine. It’s colorful. It’s cute. But it’s not particularly good. The backgrounds are blurry so they didn’t have to do much animation on them. The characters are simple. It basically looks like it was ready-made for television. Which, of course, they made a series out of it. So, there’s that.

Then they have to get the no-talent ass-clown to sing the closing song.

The movie is actually a lot of fun, but it just seems like a cheap version of a Disney movie. Definitely not my favorite of the Renaissance.