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[whitespace] Tarzan
Where Are All the People? Tarzan and Jane preside over an Africa pretty much devoid of Africans in Disney's sanitized version of Edgar Rice Burroughs' famous tale.

Disney soars on animation, flops on music in new 'Tarzan' adventure

By Richard von Busack

THERE I WAS, trapped in the jungle with Phil Collins and Rosie O'Donnell. ... Tarzan is Edgar Rice Burroughs' story of a boy raised by gorillas in remotest Africa. In manhood, he falls in love with an explorer's daughter and fights off a legion of poachers. The parts of the newest Disney opus that actually are a Tarzan movie are immaculate. No racism embarrasses--probably because here Africa has been completely depopulated of human life except for Tarzan and a handful of explorers. The figure of the Ape Man, gliding down the slippery trunks of trees or hurling through space, has the traditional charge of the old adventure. I loved the Tarzan/leopard duel: the leopard is as handsome as a $500 tattoo. The panting, chemise-clad Jane (voiced by Minnie Driver) is Something for Dad, in the style of the equally provocative Tinkerbell in Peter Pan. One good inside joke: When Tarzan asks why the chief gorilla, Kerchak (Lance Henrikson), fears that which is strange--namely, strange pink apes like Tarzan--Kerchak shouts in reply, "Protect the family!" A reference to the Disney boycott by the Christian right?

The "deep canvas" animation that Disney's been trumpeting has taken the tackiness out of the backgrounds. It's exciting to see how natural the movements are becoming in computer-aided animation. But can't something be done about those stiff, unnatural show tunes? Tarzan seems especially laden with them, pails of sonic curds churned by Phil Collins: "Put your faith in what you most believe in ... no words can heal a broken heart ... trust your heart" ("Two Worlds"); "You'll be in my heart/No matter what they say/You'll be in my heart/always" ("You'll Be in My Heart").

Tarzan's wisecracking gorilla pal, Turk, is voiced by O'Donnell, who can abrade parts of a man's ear that he thought were calloused beyond damage. Turk is a gorilla even Dian Fossey couldn't love. These Disney franchisees, done in pieces, always have a piece-work quality: moments that soar and moments that belly-flop, and no cohesive mood between them. If you're over 12, so much of watching a Disney movie is waiting around and hoping for improvement.

Tarzan (G; 90 min.), directed by Kevin Lima and Chris Buck, with music by Phil Collins and voices by Rosie O'Donnell, Lance Henriksen and Tony Goldwyn.

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From the June 24-30, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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