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It's 1914 and Milo Thatch (voiced by Michael J Fox) has inherited his family's obsession with the lost city of Atlantis. He sweats away in the boiler room of a museum but knows everything about it; where it is, how to speak the language, and most of all that it is real. But his dream of discovering Atlantis lacks two things; a mysterious shepherd's journal to guide him and someone to fund the voyage. When a femme fatale (voiced by Claudia Christian) leads him to a wealthy old friend of his Grandfather's (voiced by John Mahoney), Milo's dreams come true - he receives the shepherd's journal and a submarine full of ready-and-rowdy characters. Not only does Milo discover Atlantis, but also his crew's true intentions for the city.

A real boys' book of an animated adventure movie, Atlantis has Disney written all over it. There's the wacky but potentially hip young hero voiced by boy-wonder (Michael J Fox), and an adventure beyond our wildest dreams - villains, allies, potential love interests, fame, fortune, and death-defying odds. It's a ride for the young and young at heart, and only the cruelest critic would dare pick holes in its vulnerable outer shell. Atlantis goes all the way back to venerable classics like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Time Machine, and Voyage to the Centre of the Earth. But in animated form, its scope is somehow reduced and less believable, but that's Disney. The big kid inside me was entertained but not exactly on the edge of its seat by all this. There are all the obvious plot devices that move the story from one development to the next, and the resolution is curious rather than thrilling. The film is populated by way too many characters, from the ship's crew of eight to the Atlanteans, whose society really made little sense at all (I was always waiting for aliens to land). What I did like about Atlantis was watching how the cartoon characters resemble the voice talents behind them, from the dashing, jibbering Michael J. Fox to the staunch, austere captain James Garner to the slinky supervixen of Claudia Christian. It's an amazing and amusing development in animated films, and had me smiling back to the resemblance of Mike Myers as Shrek, Eddie Murphy as Donkey, Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear, and Tom Hanks as Woody. Atlantis achieves its aim; to entertain the young ‘uns, and without going head to head with a CG-animated film like Toy Story or a Shrek, it will be well received. But the days of these traditional Disney animations are numbered. Let's hope they make them count.
Shannon J. Harvey

Unlike Tarzan and Beauty and the Beast, which was filled with catchy songs and plenty of heart, Atlantis The Lost Empire is an 'Indiana Jones' style adventure. It certainly doesn't matter that there aren't songs, but the script is disappointing. Perhaps the filmmakers were trying so hard to maximise the fabulous computer generated effects, that they forgot the most desirable element of all – fun! Instead of being connected to the characters and feeling for them in their plight, the joys of the film are somewhat superficial. It's a pity, because the voice casting is immaculate with Michael J. Fox wonderful as Milo and James Garner a fitting Commander Rourke. Cree Summer's Princess Kida is fresh, and her character is beautifully realised. Integrating traditional 2D and digital 3D effects in the biggest animated effects film in the history of Disney, Atlantis is an ambitious project that has taken years to come to fruition. It is indeed a visual feast of colour and fantasy, and James Newton Howard's splendid score is just that. Milo is a likeable anti-hero; his mission is to save the mythical Atlantis, rescue the beautiful princess and live happily ever after. The animation is extraordinary – the explosions, the fiery fireflies, bubbles and glowing crystals are spectacular. I especially enjoyed the underwater sequences, when a myriad of different blues meld together: cerulean, cobalt, royal blue swirl together as a whirlwind. I was interested to read about the creation of the Altantean language. It's creator, linguistics expert Marc Okrand used Indo-Eureopean as the starting point in creating the language. As holiday entertainment for the whole family, Atlantis fits the bill, but could be so much more.
Louise Keller

Adorned with a soaring, epic score by James Newton Howard – the best thing about it – this animated Atlantis is a confection for 8 – 12 year olds, but disappoints for the opportunities lost. You could be forgiven for thinking that Howard wrote the score to a much better film and had it transferred. So much effort and talent went into its making – they even created a whole Atlantean language for Hollywood’s sake! – that the result should have been mesmerising, tantalising and energising. Sorry to report that it’s no such thing. Having a high cute-n-soppy factor needn’t matter as long as you’ve got the other elements of solid character, drama and wit, which Atlantis doesn’t. The animation often looks flat, even though it isn’t flat at all, especially in the awesome wallop of the (almost) final sequence, which errs on the side of overdone but is nevertheless exciting. But the script lacks bite, except for five lines aimed at the dry-eyed and hard-hearted adults, from a cigarette smoking old biddy whose role is to keep the nannies from walking out of the cinema without their charges. It’s not enough. C’mon Uncle Walt, you can do much better.
Andrew L. Urban

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CAST: Voices of Michael J. Fox, Jim Varney, James Garner, John Mahoney, Cree Summer, Leonard Nimoy

DIRECTOR: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise


SCRIPT: Tab Murphy

EDITOR: Ellen Keneshea

MUSIC: James Newton Howard, Diane Warren

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 20, 2001

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