Voices of Irene Bedard, Mel Gibson, David Ogden Stiers, Christian Bale, Linda Hunt, Billy Connolly
(7-Very Good Film)
Beautiful. Vibrant. Unsatisfying.
Made during Disney Animation’s most ambitious era, a time when they were producing hit after hit, drawing from a Victor Hugo novel, a Chinese folktale, Roman mythology, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and ancient Middle Eastern texts. Pocahontas doesn’t translate as well as some of the studio’s other efforts in that decade. Its an epic tale squeezed into an hour and twenty minutes of song and animal comic relief. Still, the animation is stunning, the music is some of the finest Alan Menken has ever done, winning him two more Oscars. The lead characters, Pocahontas and John Smith, are compelling. It’s the characters that stem from Disney convention that don’t really fit. The villain isn’t given much to do, and the animals seem out of place with the weight of the central story. Interestingly, Christian Bale lends his voice to the role of Thomas. Bale would almost ten years later play John Rolfe in Terrence Malick’s depiction of the Pocahontas story. If this is Disney’s weakest work of that decade, it’s a testament to how good their work was during that time.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-