By George Rose
December 2, 2009
It reminds me of one of the last moderately successful Disney animated musicals, Hercules. After Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King blew the lid off expectations, the bar had unfairly been risen for future releases. While initially pushed aside as a disappointment, Hercules remains one of my favorite Disney musicals. It's about Gods! Half-Gods! Titans! I'm Greek, so these things excite me by nature, but after recommending Clash of the Titans last week I've sort of been on a mythology kick. Using the voice talents of Tate Donovan, Danny DeVito and James Woods, the story follows Hercules, a God who has fallen to regular human status after Hades poisons him. Once he becomes a teenager, he discovers his true heritage and must become a hero, so he can defeat Hades and return to his family on Mount Olympus. What he comes to learn is that becoming a hero has nothing to do with physical strength so much as self-sacrifice, and even more importantly than that, love. It's a great deal of fun watching these known legends experience their story through Disney's magical, musical touch. If nothing else, it's void of that creepy, sexual predator of a crocodile.
The Ten Commandments (1956)
Like it did with Dawn of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, my mind took one film and zoomed off to another. Recommending Hercules was inspired by watching the Clash of the Titans remake trailer last week, which reminded me of the original Clash of the Titans, which reminds me of other classic films regarding mythology and religion (which, in my opinion, is mythology). Those they were released decades apart, the look, feel and history nature of the story of Clash of the Titans reminds me of The Ten Commandments, another movie I was introduced to by my parents when I was a kid. While it was probably their way of forcing their history and religion on me, it was done in a much less invasive way than church itself. Sunday School did nothing for me when it came to teaching me about the Bible, since my cousin was in my class and all we did was goof around, but The Ten Commandments has resonated with me throughout my entire life.
The biblical story, while entertaining, is not something I ever took seriously. Moses (someone many of you have probably heard of) helps free a bunch of slaves from the clutches of an Egyptian Pharoh. In order to gain his Egyptian following and strike fear into the eyes of the Pharoh, Moses must show everyone all the really cool things he can do with the power of God on his side. He can turn his staff into a snake and part the ocean with a wave of his hand. God also throws in some great action, turning water to blood and killing off children because their doors aren't marked in pigs' blood. Aren't bible stories fun?! Removing religion and the known story from the equation, the film itself is worth checking out given its epic scale and production. If it were released today, it would be directed by Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich. It's an event film for all ages and is a story you won't forget, even if you don't believe in the religion it's derived from.
The Flintstones (1994)
I was going to think of another film to recommend as the fifth title for this week's Take Five, but as I was writing the rest of it I was enjoying The Flintstones in the background. Anyone who hasn't lived under a rock in the last 100 years should know The Flintstones, since it was a classic show that has been a rerun favorite for kids over many generations. Hollywood turned The Ten Commandments into a blockbuster title in the same way they made The Flintstones. It's all just a bunch of idea-mongering by Hollywood execs; first they find the classic fiction (see how I called Moses fiction just there?), then they buy the rights, then they make a live action extravaganza that is so life-like it's almost enough to convince me it's based on truth. Only Moses and Fred Flintstone are equally unrealistic. Moses parts oceans and Fred transports his family in a car that operates with the running of his feet. The real shock is that Fred isn't also in the bible. I'm not sure why, since cartoons have taught me just as much about life as church.
The film version of the cartoon follows Fred (John Goodman) and his wife Wilma (Elizabeth Perkins) as they navigate the stone age, and their friendship with Barney (Rick Moranis) and Betty (Rosie O'Donnell). Fred and Barney work at the local rock query, but when Fred accidentally gets promoted to a management position, moral and professional boundaries are broken, helping the caveman develop into a more understanding, evolved family man and friend. The characters are perfectly cast, the mini-prehistoric inventions both clever and funny, and the overall tone something that would make Hanna-Barbera proud. It's a great reimagining of an old story and was a great way for me to enjoy writing the rest of this article.