For my third entry in the 2017 Movie Challenge, I decided to fulfill #12, “Second Childhood – an animated movie you didn’t watch as a child,” with Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001).
It’s obvious this movie was made right about the time Disney was abandoning the 2D animation that sustained it for so long. While some scenes were very impressive, in general, the art of Atlantis had more in common with a Saturday morning cartoon than the house that gave us The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Bambi. That combined with a few stolen faces from other properties led to some major distractions that Atlantis couldn’t really afford.
It’s not a bad movie, by any means. It covers a lot of ground in its 90-minute runtime, from history to theology, mysticism and of course good, old-fashioned greed, but it was a difficult movie to really get into. The first 20 minutes felt like an hour — and not in a good way — as Michael J. Fox’s nerdy linguist Milo Thatch struggles to gain respect first from his superiors at the museum where he works in the boiler room and then from the crew of people on an expedition led by James Garner’s Gen. Roarke to find the lost city of Atlantis.
But once the expedition got underway, the film really picked up, fueled mostly on the strength of its cast of side characters. Milo was a fun character that Fox imbued with plenty of personality, but the others — like Audrey Ramirez, the teenage engineer; Vinny, the demolitions expert with a flowery past; Sweet, the kindhearted muscle-man of a medic; and the ever-colorful chef Cookie voiced by Jim Varney in his last role before his death — were colorful additions bursting with possibility but given limited opportunity to shine.
And while many adults may be irritated by what is ultimately another story of a white man leading the charge to save the native people of Atlantis with his plucky band of minority sidekicks, at its heart, Atlantis is still a cartoon action-adventure meant for kids but with a tremendous cast that most people can enjoy if they’re able to overlook the rough spots.
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