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The Hunchback of Notre Dame


Roger Davidson

Hunchback of Notre Dame, The
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First Disney did classic fairy tales. Now, they're taking on classic literary novels, such as Victor Hugo's 1831 story of Quasimodo, a deformed man doomed to life in the bell tower of Nortre Dame. It's 15th century Paris and Quasimodo (voice of Amadeus' Tom Hulce) falls in love with the stunning Gypsy girl, Esmeralda (voice of Demi Moore). However, his love for her sets off a chain reaction that threatens to destroy all of Paris. Among the other characters, there are the typical Disney sidekicks. For Quasimodo, it's three wise-cracking gargoyles (Murphy Brown's Charles Kimbaugh, Jason Alexander and Mary Wickes), who give him the self-confidence he needs to triumph over his evil master, Claude Frollo (Tony Jay).

This is a definite improvement after the much duller Pocahontas. The songs are not really memorable, but they seem to have a lot more passion and spirit than the recent neo-Broadway tunes of Disney. The best song is possibly "Hellfire", where the villain Frollo sings about his lust for Esmeralda, which quickly turns to hatred when she spurns. To make a long story short, this animated feature seems to actually keep much of the dark tone of Hugo's classic novel. It's much different from the usual Disney cuteness. That's what makes it so good. Before, Disney was keeping with the same old cute-and-cuddly plot line. This one is Disney with an edge. The movie is probably one of the most adult Disney films the studio has ever produced.

Quasimodo, Esmeralda and the rest of the characters are well voiced. I especially liked Hulce's rendition, because he really made Quasimodo a sympathetic tragic figure, as the book had done. And Moore is quite good. Usually, I've never really been fond of her acting, but she seemed to have real fun with the role, and enjected much of her heart into the character.

You've probably been hearing about the Southern Baptist Coalition calling to boycott Disney products, films, etc. I find that ironic, considering most of the villains in the story are religious figures like Frollo, who constantly talk about the "corruption" supposedly caused by Gypsies. And in the real world, the Baptists are screaming about the "corruption" that Disney has caused with their Gay theme day at a Disney theme park. The similarities between the animated film and what's going on right now is amazing. The Baptists are attempting to persecute Disney and homosexuals, just as Frollo is trying to persecute the Gypsies of Paris. And the consequences of oppression in both cases can be earth-shattering. So if for no other reason but to defy the Baptist decree, go see this film and come away satisfied that Disney still can capture the wholesome, wide eyed, out-spoken awe of everything that is so typically American. It's one of the best films Disney has made since as long as I can remember.

My Rating = Four Stars

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