Deja Vu

Granting all of this, however, there's still no doubt that the title character has swung his way through far less artful and thoughtful incarnations, especially in the last two decades. An utterly abysmal 1981 Tarzan, the Ape Man was mostly a showcase for a topless Bo Derek as Jane, and Greystoke, Hugh Hudson's 1984 attempt to take the tale seriously, was a scattered misfire. As recently as last year, an unintentional laugh-riot called Tarzan in the Lost City starred Casper Van Dien, whose Nazi-poster-art looks might, at least, have pleased Burroughs.

By comparison, Disney's Tarzan is a fine entertainment value. Most kids will love it, and it won't leave adults fidgeting. It's beautifully made -- and, considering the literally thousands of names that crawl past in the end credits, it better be -- drenched in deep, rich emerald, with sinuous tracking visuals driven forward by pleasantly African-flavored songs from Phil Collins.

The characters just don't leap to life here as vividly as you want them to, however. The cartoonish big-band animals of Disney's The Jungle Book had more storybook vitality than the residents of Tarzan's jungle. The strongest of the vocal performances is by Minnie Driver, who gives a charming, nonsyrupy reading to Jane. The title character, rendered with an appropriately impossible, sinewy physique (no less impossible, of course, is Jane's wasp waist) and dark, ropy hair, is voiced by Tony Goldwyn, a curly-haired fellow from the same competent-but-generic category as Tate Donovan, who provided the voice for Disney's Hercules.

The villains are a leopard who never speaks and a great white hunter who, even with the magnificent pipes of Brian Blessed behind him, has no real personality. The comic relief, the spunky young gorilla Terk and the fussy elephant Tantor, voiced by Rosie O'Donnell and Wayne Knight, respectively, share the Jar Jar Binks duty on this film; adults may cringe at their corny antics, but kids will giggle.

Opens June 18.
-- M.V. Moorhead

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