To refuse the charms and cohesion of Hercules is to invite hate and harm into your life. A bold man would write Hercules off as charming fun that doesn’t hit the highs they’d hoped for, but a truly brave man would go for the jugular, denounce it as whimsical mediocrity and have no more to do with it. The latter may be dangerous, but it’s truthful also. For while this loose adaptation of Greek mythology plays well for the nostalgia shot people often look for in Disney flicks, it doesn’t match well with contemporary eyes. That same animation style of the glory days is there, the allure of big names on the cast appears also, but Hercules is missing one key ingredient. Heart.
For many, Hercules is a grand and memorable time filled with memorable dialogue and engaging performances from all-time greats Rip Torn and Danny DeVito. It should be noted that their performances are exceptional, but they’re not enough to salvage larger pockets of the film. Ironically the main issue is our titular character. Tate Donovan’s voice doesn’t inspire much confidence, and competent as he is, he fails to go the extra mile. Immediately forgettable bits of comedy, a few grating songs thrown in for good measure, it’s the standard Disney formula we’ve seen for generations now, and it’s just a coincidence that Donovan and much of the other cast don’t quite get to grips with the material.
There are some saving graces to Hercules, of course. Superb direction as expected, that Disney charm isn’t lost entirely. Engaging adaptations of Greek mythology, unique designs and a nice flair for the few memorable comical moments. Rather similar to Aladdin with its comedy, a panache style that would serve Disney well through this era. It splices many ideas, odes, and poems together into one narrative. A complex issue for those that read Homer, but that’s most likely not the audience Disney is catering to here. Fear not, for those of us out there that have yet to find the courage to read The Illiad, directing pair Ron Clements and John Musker make an undeniably palatable piece of work. But palatable shouldn’t be the aim for a cast and crew working through the glory days of Disney’s output.
Hercules doesn’t quite light up the world, but it has honest intentions with some genuine sparks of inspiration clear throughout. Adapting some prose and legends rather nicely into a fittingly childish narrative structure that will see no changes, divergences or even allusions to the idea that something left of field might happen. Stringent, tiresome, but light too. A mixed bag is the best you’ll get out of this one, and Hercules falls a tad flat. If you compare it to the quality of The Lion King or the entertainment value of Aladdin, then Hercules can’t keep up with the standards set by the films before it. It’s chalk and cheese that is, and I know which I’d prefer.