Is there anyone not familiar with this story? (Actually, until I set
them straight, my kids thought it was based on George Of The Jungle.)
Originally published in 1914 as the novel Tarzan Of The Apes by Edgar
Rice Burroughs, the story is thus: A baby is orphaned in the African jungle
in the early 20th century, when his British parents are killed. He is discovered
by a family of gorillas, reared as one of their own, and doesn't discover
he is human until adulthood, when he is found by explorers. Then he must
choose between savagery and civility, between the apes who were his family
and the humans who are his species. In this version, adapted for the screen
by Tab Murphy and Bob Tzudiker & Noni White, young Tarzan (voice of
Alex D. Linz) is rescued by mother ape Kala (Glenn Close) and brought into
the clan despite the reservations of its leader, Kerchak (Lance Henriksen).
He makes friends with a rambunctious kid gorilla named Terk (Rosie O'Donnell)
and an elephant named Tantor (Wayne Knight).
When Tarzan is an adult (voiced by Tony Goldwyn), he is discovered by
a young explorer named Jane (Minnie Driver), who has come searching for
apes with her father, the affable Professor Porter (Nigel Hawthorne), and
an opportunistic scoundrel named Clayton (Brian Blessed). After winning
his friendship and trust, Jane convinces Tarzan to show her the apes' home,
but Clayton has plans to trap the animals and transport them home to sell,
so he doublecrosses his colleagues, taking Tarzan and the Porters hostage.
This film is beautiful, fun, touching, and exciting. The characterizations
are enjoyable, especially Driver as Jane, who brings a sense of independence
to this turn-of-the-century female. Some definite updates to Tarzan's character
are his sensitive side with Jane and his skater-style "tree-surfing"
high in the jungle canopy. The CGI background animations are astounding,
and the music is some of Phil Collins's best work to date; however, unlike
most Disney films, Tarzan does not feature a soundtrack full of rousing
musical numbers. The most memorable piece is an instrumental percussion
jam, as would be expected from Collins, still a drummer at heart.
This Africa-based film bears some resemblance to its Indian predecessor, The Jungle Book (1967), the last feature produced by Walt Disney himself. But Tarzan brings us fully into the 21st century, using computer technology on the technical side and fitting the social-sexual roles of its principal characters to our ever-so-enlightened 1990s sensibilities. ****½
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