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TREASURE PLANET (director/writer: Ron Clements and John Musker; screenwriters: Rob Edwards/based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island/story by Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio; art director: Andy Gaskill; editor: Michael Kelly; music: James Newton Howard; cast: Joseph Gordon- Levitt (Young Jim Hawkins-voice), Martin Short (B.E.N.-voice), Brian Murray (Long John Silver-voice), Emma Thompson (Captain Amelia-voice), David Hyde Pierce (Doctor Doppler-voice), Patrick McGoohan (Billy Bones-voice), Roscoe Lee Browne (Mr. Arrow-voice), Michael McShane (Hands-voice), Michael Wincott (Scroop-voice), Dane A. Davis (Morph), Laurie Metcalf (Sarah-voice), Tony Jay (Narrator-voice); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Ron Clements/ Roy Conli/John Musker; Disney; 2002)
“The film failed to be imaginative enough.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A Walt Disney animation film that is primarily for the boys in the family. Adults and girls should probably feel left out by this venture. It’s based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, but this one takes place on the planet Montressor (French for “my treasure”) and young Jim and the pirate John Silver are now relocated in a fantasy world in outer space on a spaceship called the RLS Legacy–named after the author. It’s directed by Ron Clements and John Musker and scripted by them along with Rob Edwards. In an interview the director team said they wanted to create a world where 70% of the inspiration for sets and props would be the original’s 18th century England, with 30% designated as futuristic.

Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon- Levitt ) lives with his hardworking single mom innkeeper owner Sarah (Laurie Metcalf), whose hubby deserted her. He’s impressed as a young boy reading a pirate story about the notorious Captain Nathaniel Flint before bedtime, in which the pirate hid a secret treasure trove “the loot of a thousand worlds.” Jimmy believes the tale is real, while mom tells him it’s only a legend.

The lad grows into a troublesome teenager who has brushes with the law and is failing in his school work, as his beleagured wide-eyed mom doesn’t know how to discipline him. The police bring him to her after he crashes his solar surfer while racing through all sorts of barriers, as they warn his mom that next time they’ll place him in a juvenile home for detention.

When the cyborg Billy Bones crashes his spacecraft while pursued by alien beastly creatures, Jim comes into possession of a three-dimensional cybernetic orb treasure map of the legendary Treasure Planet where the feared pirate Nathaniel Flint hid “the loot of a thousand worlds.” Jim is helped by mom’s platonic friend and astrophysics expert, an intergalactic dog creature, the bumbling astronomer Dr. Delbert Doppler (David Hyde Pierce). He hires their ship’s commander the stern feline and much too talkative Captain Amelia (EmmaThompson) and the straight as an arrow first mate Mr. Arrow (Roscoe Lee Browne). Doppler also mistakenly hires a crew of evildoers consisting of the cook Long John Silver (Brian Murray), who has as a pet a flighty moth-like amorphous creature he calls Morph (Dane A. Davis). The captain refers to the crew as “a ludicrous parcel of galloping galoots.” Jim sets off on the Legacy to travel in the far galaxies to find the treasure with Doppler, as Doppler tags along because he footed the bill. Mom stays home as Jim vows to make good and help mom rebuild the inn that was destroyed by the pursuers of the treasure map.

On board, Jim is assigned by the captain to be the cabin boy for the cyborg Silver, who has an artificial mechanical arm. Jim becomes attached to him as his surrogate father but soon learns that Silver has a bad side as he becomes his main rival for the treasure and is the organizer for the crew’s mutiny. Others on board include a hybrid of alien types, as the sinister, spider-like Scroop (Michael Wincott) sticks out in this motley crew for his menacing qualities.

None of the characters mix together well and everything about their interactions seems scattered. There’s also the friendly but mentally impaired robot B.E.N. (Martin Short) on the Treasure Planet, who almost can be excused because he’s missing a few computer chips in his noggin as he tries to always be cute and funny but never succeeds in either aim. The film failed to be imaginative enough in its characters and in its gimmicky story presentation, though I have no quibble with the work done by the host of animators as it merges old-fashioned hand-drawn scenes with computer-generated backgrounds. This gives the film a bountiful detailed look and works especially well in presenting the spaceport of Crescentia. Treasure Planet also comes with a preachy lesson directed to young boys: “Stick to it. Chart your own course in life and you will have a chance in succeeding.”


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”