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  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001): **1/2

    This movie suffers from too many of the same problems as Titan A.E. (with which it also shares a surprising number of plot elements). The main one: it can't decide if its for kids or not. Sure, it has big action scenes in which literally hundreds (and in one case thousands) of people actually die, but it also has a man named "Mole" who likes to dig in pots of dirt and has googly eyes. And a wacky billionaire who does waky yoga in the buff. Did I mention wacky?

    Disney was too scared that this movie, if left in the raw, would have nothing in it for the kiddies, and being the spineless filmmakers they are, they panicked and had to throw in lame comedy into what should have been an action flick. If this were live action, we never would have put up with a lot of this shit. At least there weren't big talking animals with googly eyes like in Titan A.E. (a Kangaroo, a Wolf, a Turtle, Bats, etc), all masquerading as aliens.

    Another problem is that this was a two-and-a-half hour movie CRAMMED into less than an hour-and-a-half. WAY too short for the story they were trying to tell, so the plot has to move so fast that it's really difficult to get caught up in any of the emotions which you know are going on. They launch from the east cost and find Atlantis LITERALLY in three minutes. I mean, at one point almost two hundred people get killed by a (really cool) giant fish robot, and afterwords there's like 30 seconds of them dealing with it emotionally. None of the really horrific things in this movie seem to bother anybody.

    This is also one of the only Disney movies in the last fifteen years to actually have REALLY crappy animation in parts. Characters don't stay on-model, they move unnaturally. The character design is really cool, but the backgrounds seem very uninspired design-wise, just a mishmash of Atlantis cliches, without the style that energizes the characters. It looked a lot like stuff out of Duck Tales.

    Also, Atlantis has been down there for 10,000 years, with its citizens actually each living for that long. What are they like? Who knows? We only get to talk to the Princess and the King. Not enough of a representation of a fabulous (if decadent) ancient society. We get only brief glimpses of what life underground is like.

    Thank GOD for Don Novello (Father Guido Sarducci), whose "Vinny" the demolitions expert is effortlessly, naturally very, very funny. None of this labored comedy for him. He works in every scene he's in.

    The movie's story is also pretty good. I hate giving stuff away. But the giant robots at the end were really cool, too. The voice acting is all top-notch, and the non-wacky characters are at least interesting and likeable (although the crazily multi-ethnic crew is a bit odd), especially Jacqueline Obradors as Audrey Rocio Ramirez, the teenage engineer. Michael J. Fox as Milo Thatch does get some very good scenes doing some entertaining schtick, although his transformation into an action hero for the big climax is not very believable.

    This movie was worse than I thought it would be. I thought it would be better than Titan A.E. (which was better than I had expected), but it's only just as good.

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