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The heavenly Hercules is stripped of his immortality and raised on Earth instead of Olympus, where he's forced to take on Hades and assorted monsters.
For more about Hercules and the Hercules Blu-ray release, see Hercules Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on August 7, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Tate Donovan, Susan Egan, Josh Keaton, Roger Bart, Danny DeVito, James Woods
Narrator: Charlton Heston
Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker
» See full cast & crew
Hercules Blu-ray Review
"It's a small Underworld after all..."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, August 7, 2014
Disney loves August. I don't quite understand the trifecta of late summer, Blu-ray and family entertainment, but the Mouse House has once again settled on August as the month du jour, unleashing another deluge of new releases. Four Walt Disney Animation Studios feature films are making their BD debut -- Fun and Fancy Free (1947), The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), Hercules (1997) and Tarzan (1999) -- as is the nearly forgotten RKO Radio Pictures feature The Reluctant Dragon (1941), live-action classic Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), direct-to- video DisneyToon movie Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers (2004), brand spankin' new sequel Muppets Most Wanted (2014) and DisneyNature's latest natural history documentary, Bears (2014). For those keeping count, that's nine films spread across seven Blu-ray releases. (The Ichabod and Mr. Toad 2-Movie Collection is actually a 3-Movie Collection, with The Reluctant Dragon buried inside.) Whew. Most studios would space it out. But Disney? Open the floodgates, gentlemen. Given the second, sometimes third tier nature of most of the films, though (save Muppets Most Wanted), it isn't exactly overwhelming. Most fans will pick and choose their favorites. Only a select few completists will have to find a way to purchase all seven in bulk.
Hercules is one of Disney's trickier classics. Plenty of people adore it. Plenty can't stand it. Divisive as it is zany, slow on the draw as it is quick on its feet, the studio's 35th animated feature is a ton of fun... with a ton of problems. How much you love or loathe the film will depend entirely on how simpatico you are with its endless pop culture riffs, in-jokes, self-aware references and one-liners. A good point of reference? The Emperor's New Groove, another snarky crowd-splitter with camps of fans and critics. Personally, I dig Hercules. Just not enough to watch it very often. It's funny, snappy and clever, sure. But it also wears out its welcome pretty fast if you aren't in the right mood.
Taken from the gods as a newborn and adopted on earth by human parents, Hercules (Tate Donovan), son of Zeus and Hera (Rip Torn and Samantha Eggar), becomes an awkward teenage pillar of strength. But in trying to fit in, the budding warrior discovers his home is on Mount Olympus... if, that is, he can move from "zero" to true hero. Teaming with Pegasus, the flying stallion, and Phil (Danny DeVito), his feisty personal trainer, Hercules becomes determined to reclaim his birthright. To do so, he has to first match wits with Grecian beauty Meg (Susan Egan) and then take on the comically hotheaded Hades (James Woods), who's having a devil of a time with his hostile takeover of the Universe. Armed with morphing morons Pain and Panic (Bobcat Goldthwait and Matt Frewer), Hades needs only rid himself of one obstacle: Hercules.
Hercules clips along with brisk abandon, tossing out any joke that might stick. Some do. Others don't. No matter. Whatever the hit rate, an unmistakable electricity pulses through each scene and drives the film forward even when groan-inducing gags threaten to drag it down. Donovan, DeVito and Egan press the advantage, settling comfortably into the groove and rhythm of the comedy, and manage to make a boy scout demigod, sarcastic femme fatale and gruff Mickey Goldmill sendup likeable and fairly memorable. Engaging as they are, though, it's better to be bad, and Woods steals the show with a laugh and a wink, leering, sneering and temper tantrumming his way into Disney villain infamy with ease. Goldthwait and Frewer tarnish Woods' reign a bit -- the bumbling henchmen, ever a Disney staple -- but a heavy-hitter lineup of famed beasties and mythological monsters make up the difference. Even when writers Ron Clements, John Musker and Barry Johnson needlessly manufacture more conflict through a betrayal in Hercules' ranks, Hades and the creatures continue to provide real entertainment and all the titan-clashing necessary to propel the film through an exciting third act. Predictable? Yeah, but plot twists and surprises haven't exactly proven to be Disney's strong suit.
When and where the film drifts from hero to zero territory is harder to pinpoint. It's one of those you'll know it when you see it situations. Not to be redundant, but some scenes work, others don't. The music -- a bizarre blend of southern gospel exposition, pop song exposition and traditional animated score -- is catchy I suppose but never really gels. The animation, eye-catching as it tends to be, hasn't aged particularly well in some regards. The hand-drawn animation dances and flows beautifully -- body movement, facial expressions and overall character design especially -- but the (limited) CG elements become more and more of a distraction as the years march on. (Compared to Tarzan's near-seamless jungle surfing sequences, the hydra battle is dated.) Pacing is an issue too, with the story lurching ahead, then lingering too long, then stutter-stopping through a tough middle stretch, until it suddenly, and thankfully, rockets into action, full speed ahead. No, Hercules isn't broken. I wouldn't even call it fundamentally flawed. It isn't as effortless as Disney's best, though, even if its spunk, moxie and spirit suggests it is. Ah well. I advise powering down the critical portions of your brain and just having as much fun as you can with everything Clements and Musker have on tap. It isn't the co-directors' finest hour, but it offers a healthy dose of laughter, and laughter goes a long way.
Hercules Blu-ray, Video Quality
No need to brace for bad news. Yes, Hercules' 1080p/AVC-encoded video presentation exhibits some of the same issues that plague Tarzan's problematic presentation. Comb through the screenshots accompanying this review and you'll find instances of minor aliasing, macroblocking and banding. However, each issue is less prevalent and, more importantly, far less noticeable in Hercules than it is in Tarzan, making for a more rewarding, expectation-meeting viewing experience. In fact, most viewers won't catch sight of anything wrong unless they dig through screenshots, which tells you just how difficult it is to spot the vast majority of the anomalies in motion on a properly calibrated display. So on to the undisputed good news. Color and contrast are strong and stable, primaries have plenty of punch and black levels are deep. Detail is excellent too, with sharply defined line art, crisp background clarity and very, very little that hinders or interferes with the integrity of the animation. (The film's CG elements are prone to more obvious aliasing, but those particular instances trace back to the source animation, not Disney's encode.) All told, Hercules looks great. It's not perfect, but it's also not as imperfect as Tarzan. Splitting hairs, I know, but there it is.
Hercules Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Hercules flexes some muscle thanks to a terrific DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that throws its weight and might behind the film's action and adventure. LFE output is bold and brawny, with enough power and presence to render giants gigantic, titans titanic and monsters monstrous. Rear speaker activity is engaging and energetic, creating a full, immersive soundfield packed with impish directional effects, sly pans and impressive dynamics. Dialogue doesn't disappoint either. Voices are clean and clear at all times, prioritization is spot on, and no amount of chaos, music or unruly hijinks overwhelm or disrupt the precision-crafted six-channel fun.
Hercules Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Hercules Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Hercules isn't a tried and true classic's classic, but it's a light, breezy adventure with just enough heart, humor and weight to keep it grounded. Disney's Blu-ray release is better, at least in terms of its AV presentation. The supplemental package is much too short -- and oooold at this point -- but the film's video presentation impresses, standing tall despite a few flaws, and its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track hits hard, proving itself a hero long before Hercules. Bottom line? It's worth the cost of admission.
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Hercules Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: August 12-19 - August 10, 2014
For the week of August 12th, Sony is bringing the first season of NBC's uneven procedural The Blacklist to Blu-ray. Other titles include the intense Tom Hardy-starring drama Locke, Disney's Hercules (part of a spate of catalog releases from the Mouse House that ...
• Upcoming Disney Catalog Title Details Revealed - July 4, 2014
Walt Disney Home Entertainment has revealed further details about five of its upcoming catalog titles: Tarzan, Hercules, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, and Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers. All five Blu-ray releases ...
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