“Fewer songs. More explosions.” That was the motto for the Walt Disney Animation Studios as it transitioned into the 2000s to make the action adventure film, “Atlantis: The Lost Empire.” The film follows Milo Thatch, a man who wants to live up to his grandfather’s legend, as he seeks the lost city of Atlantis. Meanwhile, a group of mercenaries who only want to find treasure, take him on his mission and then turn on him once he has led them to the treasure. It’s a great plot and the film had great potential, but it comes up a little short compared to other Disney efforts.
There are some positives to this film, and a lot of those positives are found in the voice cast. Michael J. Fox is perfect for Milo Thatch. Milo needs to sound like he knows what he’s talking about, but he wouldn’t be any good in a fight. He’s a brain with no brawn and Fox delivers his lines perfectly. In contrast, James Garner is perfect as Commander Lyle Tiberius Rourke. He needs to have a gravitas in his voice that would make you understand why people would follow him, even when his motives are questionable at best and downright evil at worst. His voice is commanding. He sounds like he knows how to lead, because he does know how to lead. If he were honorable, he would make an excellent ally. But, since he’s dishonorable, he makes a compelling villain. Jim Varney also stands out in this cast as Cookie, the chef. Varney knew he was going to die before this film was released and he decided to turn out his best animated performance for the role. This guy was great as Slinky Dog in the “Toy Story” films, but “Atlantis” is where he shines as a voice actor.
That being said, the film just falls a little flat. The explosions are cool and not every Disney film needs to be a musical like the Disney Renaissance, but 2000s Disney was a rough time. It doesn’t have the humor of “The Emperor’s New Groove” or the heart of “Lilo and Stitch.” It doesn’t have the animated progression of “Dinosaur,” “Treasure Planet,” “Chicken Little” or “Bolt.” It’s got a good plot that’s easy to follow, but with Pixar knocking everything out of the park at this point and Dreamworks also making headway in animation, the 2D style feels flat.
I like this movie, but I don’t love it. This is not a film that I’m going to say you have to see. It’s not a hidden gem, but it’s an enjoyable romp. In the Post-Renaissance Era, I like it better than “Treasure Planet” and “Home on the Range,” but not as much as “Bolt,” “The Emperor’s New Groove” or “Lilo and Stitch.” If you like explosions, check it out. But, if you’re looking for good 2000s animation, stick with Pixar.
Ranking: 2.5 stars out of 5
What did you think of “Atlantis: The Lost Empire?”