Copyright 1999-2003 3BlackChicks Enterprises™. All Rights Reserved.

Bams' review of
Disney's 'Tarzan'


Disney's 'Tarzan' (1999)
Rated G; running time 90 minutes
Genre: Animated
Official site:
IMDB site: 0120855
Written by: Tab Murphy (based on the story by Edgar Rice Burroughs)
Directed by: Kevin Lima and Chris Buck
Cast: voices of Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Glenn Close, Rosie O'Donnell, Lance Hendricksen, Brian Blessed, Wayne Knight

Review Copyright Rose Cooper, 1999

(click here to skip to this movie's rating)

You may be asking yourself, "Self, why is this Chick reviewing a kiddie movie?" Well, first, stop talkin' to yourself. And don't worry; I asked myself that as soon as I decided I was going to review Tarzan, the new animated flick from the Disney folks. Oh, I knew what my motivation was, alright: too many years of watching the heinous "live-action" (if you could call them that) Tarzan movies that greeted me every Sunday morning before Sunday School (between Tarzan and Shirley Temple, it's a wonder any of us children of the 70s could grow up feelin' good about Being Black. But I digress). It was Issue enough for me to see what this prettied-up-90's-style (I presumed, before seeing it) version would be like. But still, after seeing multiple pairs of kiddie eyes staring at me with that "mommy, what is that grownup doing here by herself?" look in their eyes, I spoke to my Self till about 5 minutes into the movie. And then - surprise surprise! - I started actually enjoying myself...

THE STORY (WARNING: **spoilers contained below**)
Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you've heard it before: White momma, pappa, and wee baby boy, get shipwrecked in the jungles of Africa; through the majic of the movies (where'd those tools come from? hmmm...), momma and pappa build a treehouse to live in, only to be eaten by the Big Bad cheetah. Wee baby boy is rescued by an ape momma who is grieving after her wee baby ape is karmacally eaten by same Big Bad cheetah; wee baby boy grows up to fufill his White Priviledge Destiny [sorry, the africentrist in me pops up at the strangest times] as Tarzan, Lord Of The Jungle.

Before sitting in the theater and watching this beautifully shot movie, I was sure that The Premise would be the beginning and the end for me, as far as reviewing it was concerned. Knowing full well that the 90s sensibility toward not perpetuating negative stereotypes in the movies [she said, trying to keep a straight face] would by default keep many of the problems I had with the Tarzan of Johnny Weismuller's time, out of this version of the story. So, what else is there to Tarzan, especially for someone not in Disney's targetted demographic? As it turns out, plenty, especially for tech-heads like me.

From the first shot to the final frame, you can't help but notice how lush, how artistically real this movie is; at times, I got so caught up in how the background looked, I forgot to watch what was going on! The technique used to create the stunning visuals, "Deep Canvas", is a technique patented by Disney that took their technicians years to perfect. That, and the sheer number of artists that drew the film (whole teams were assigned to draw the main characters, and I got a kick out of seeing the title "rough inbetweeners" during the closing credits) made the difference between it being Just Another Cartoon, and a Visual Experience, for me. From the lush backgrounds, to the way the characters' hair blew "naturally" in the updraft on a cliff, to Surfin Tarzan Dude, I can't speak highly enough about the beauty of this flick.

Still, it had its problems. After seeing the realism of the ocean waves, the cheetah, and such, it was terribly startling to hear the apes talking in English (not that they could've communicated to the audience very well in ape-talk, but ease us in, whydoncha?!?), not to mention seeing the - for lack of a better term - cartoonish, comically-drawn Terk (voice of Rosie O'Donnell) and Tantor the Elephant (voice of Wayne Knight). Momma ape Kala (voice of Glenn Close) just seemed too damned gentle for an ape, and I didn't for one moment buy the way she took Tarzan in (though I could definitely Feel her brokenheartedness over the loss of her own son). I have major Issues with Tarzan being given dreadlocks as a hairdo; it might be that only someone else wearing 'locs can understand why, but after reading an interview one of the directors gave (about it being a "jungle hairdo"), I found myself growling under my breath. And hearing Close's song meld into a Phil Collins Pop Hit, gave me pains at first - not to mention the mind-numbingly stoopid production number showcasing Rosie O'Donnell's [ahem] musical talents (and what was up with that pseudo-mohawk?)

Once I reminded myself that this movie was written for little tots, though, I was able to suspend my disbelief a little higher, and even Learned Something; Tarzan's difficulty with being accepted for his differences, was something that didn't get lost on me, and I especially liked the way it wasn't forced down the audience's throat. And Phil Collins even grew on me after awhile. I heard myself laughing, unprompted by others in the audience, more than a few times.

As for the vocal talent, Tony Goldwyn (Ghost) and Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting) worked well as Tarzan and Jane; Driver, especially, has the kind of voice that is meant for animated movies. Lance Hendricksen (voice of Kerchak the Poppa Ape) and Brian Blessed (voice of the dastardly Clayton) complimented Goldwyn and Driver quite nicely. This contrasted starkly with O'Donnell's vocalizing; I could not get past that Noo Yawk Ape thing she had goin' on. Reel it in next time, girl!

THE "BLACK FACTOR"    [ObDisclaimer: We Are Not A Monolith]

Aside from my previously voiced Issues with the Tarzan of old, the BF in this movie is that there was none, specifically; whether out of a feeling of Sensitivity to Us, or just because the Disney folks didn't want to be boycotted by Blacks Up In Arms, there were no, none, nada, zilch, zero, Blacks to be seen in this movie. Set in Africa. No Blacks in Deepest Darkest Africa. None. Took me awhile to decide, but in the end, I realized that this was A Good Thing; better to avoid the whole issue than to tackle it half-assed, as it would surely have been if this movie addressed it at all.

No, I take that back; there was definitely somethin' goin' on for Us as far as the whole Accept Others That Are Different Than You, Kids! vibe. Unfortunately, it's not kids that need that lesson most...

Go see Tarzan, if only to witness the eye candy (the rollercoaster effect is worth the price of twilight-ticket admission); if you can get some kids to serve as Cover for you, cool. If not, take a notepad and tell the kiddies and parents staring at ya, that you're a Professional Movie Reviewer. Worked for me.

Welcome to the Lush Life - and to Hollywood history, painted over with whiteout.

DISNEY'S 'TARZAN':   green

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And that's the way I see it.

Rose "Bams" Cooper
3BlackChicks Review™
Copyright Rose Cooper, 1999
EMAIL:    ICQ: 7760005

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More 3BlackChicks™ review(s) for this week:
(movies released week of 7/9/99):

Bams' reviews:
Disney's 'Tarzan'

The Diva's reviews:
Arlington Road

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