Hercules (1997) (G)

What makes a hero? Is heroism something that you are born with? Is it attainable through physical training and vigorous exercise? Or is it something that every person can achieve?
These are the questions that the narrator of "Hercules" starts to ask when the movie opens. He is quickly cut off by the Muses, who resemble a gospel group more than characters from Greek mythology; but this just sets the mood for the rest of the movie.
In the legends, Zeus and Hera were a god and a goddess and they produced Hercules. This is after Zeus, who is sort of the head honcho of the god world, has defeated the titans and locked them up, hopefully for good.
This tale is told in Disney's "Hercules" comically. The gods are all brightly colored, for example Zeus is bright yellow and Hera is purple/pink. Little Hercules seems to take after his father's color scheme and is quite strong for an infant.
Zeus and Hera are throwing a baby party for their young god when Hades shows up, the god of the underworld. Hades is sarcastic and a bit tempered—he has blue hair which is actually a flame and when he gets hot under the collar, it turns orange and red (not exactly scientifically accurate, but then again, he has a flame for hair).
Hades is just at the party to remind Zeus that he still is condemned to look after the underworld for eternity and to size up the young Hercules.
When Hades returns to his kingdom, the Fates are waiting. These three witch-like characters have one eye between them and they can predict the future. Hades mentions that he plans on unleashing the titans and taking over Zeus's kingdom and asks the Fates to see the future for him. They tell him that, should he attack in eighteen years, when the planets are aligned, he will be successful...unless Hercules should fight. If the young god fights Hades, there is no possible way that Hades's plan will work.
Gods are immortal, a fact that really collapses Hades's plan. But if Hercules could be made into a mortal, he would be...uh, mortal.
So Hades's two sidekicks, Pain and Panic, sneak into Zeus's kingdom and kidnap the powerful child. They feed him a special potion that will make him mortal and then they plan on killing him. he has to drink every last drop but, right before they are going to kill him, they are interrupted. The drop the bottle and one drop escapes, un-consumed.
Because he did not drink the entire potion, Hercules grows up as a mortal with incredible strength.
You would think that people would enjoy having his super-strength around, but they don't. Hercules is treated like a freak and his foster parents tell him about his origins. He goes off to find a statue of Zeus which becomes animated and tells him that if he could prove himself a hero, he would be welcomed into the kingdom as a god.
So Hercules plods off in search of Philoctetes, who will train him to be a hero and thus starts the adventure.
On this quest Hercules meets the sultry and sarcastic Meg, who stuns him with her body and her wit.
"Hercules" is a load of fun. It's one of the more adult of the Disney animated movies, but it's also one of the most enjoyable and funniest.
Pop references abound in "Hercules" that include jabs at American Express and even a moment that has part of a character from "The Lion King".
The voice acting is really sensational: Tate Donovan, Josh Keaton, Danny DeVito, Susan Egan (as Meg, perfectly voiced), and James Woods as Hades.
The animation is seamless, unless you include a scene with some horrible CGI in it. The humor is surprising and the movie as a whole is curiously moving.
The more you know about Greek mythology, the funnier some of the puns can be...that being said, you don't have to be a Homer-aficionado to enjoy the movie.
The movie may surprise you with its more PG-13 moments, like a satyr watching nymphs bathe and double entendres that abound...it gives the adult audience something to chuckle at while going over the heads of the children.
"Hercules" is just plain fun.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

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