Disney's latest full-length animation feature is a rehashed version of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." The movie is set in Virginia during the discovery of the New World, but based on a factual series of events involving a young Indian princess, Pocahontas, and an explorer for the Virginia Company, Captain John Smith (voice provided by Mel Gibson!).
Pocahontas is coming of age in her community. She is young, beautiful, and the daughter of the chief. The time has come for her to make some serious choices about the course her life will follow. Her father, the chief, wishes her to marry a brave warrior of the tribe, but Pocahontas is unsure if this is the right choice. The spirit of the wise willow tree concurs with Pocahonta's misgivings and advises her to listen to the spirits of the world around her with an open heart, which results in her discovering the arrival of the men of the Virginia Company, led by Captain John Smith.
Pocahontas and John Smith were fated to meet but to be denied their right to be together, just as in Romeo and Juliet, by their beliefs, their peers, and the strong hatred that man can cultivate for others who are different. In the end, Pocahontas and John Smith must make choices for themselves and for the good of their peoples.
The film features a surprisingly lengthy soundtrack, coming in at 28 tracks on compact disc. Lyrics for the soundtrack were written by Stephen Schwartz and music composed by award-winning Alan Menken. Like all the full-length animated features from Disney since "Beauty and the Beast," the soundtrack features songs designed to not only appeal to children but also to the pop music audience. In "Pocahontas," the closing music is a lovely duet sung by Jon Secada and Shanice. Other songs which are likely to be favourites for adults and kids alike include "Colours of the Wind," and "Just Around the Riverbend."
The animation is superb, as we have come to expect from Disney. Voices match mouth movement, which is quite realistic and movement, unless otherwise intended, is always smooth between the individual frames. No doubt Disney is quite thankful for the advent of the computer age which simplifies the process of making such movies.
The story is touching, although some people might believe that the native Indians and the land have been romanticized to such a point as to be kitchy. Children will find it appealing and colourful, and the natives are not overly stereotyped either positively or negatively. Adults who attend with their children will likely not find it difficult to remain interested in the movie and will catch many subtleties beyond the ken of most children. As it's essentially a love story, whether hopeless or not, the underlying story and the beguiling characters will no doubt appeal to many women.
As a family movie, which it's intended to be, I give this movie five stars out of five and kudos to Disney for producing another fine PG-rated family-oriented film. If your child has a birthday coming up or you feel like taking the kids out to the Saturday matinee, this is certainly an excellent choice and sure not to disappoint.
Most adults aren't so gung-ho on being caught attending a children's animated feature, but if you are hanging around one afternoon or on a cheap Tuesday, you might want to try this out for yourself, or you can visit your local movie rental outlet and borrow it when it's available.