Hunchback of Notre Dame, The
Reviewed by Diane Squires
Rating: 8 Beans
ow much crack do you figure they had to smoke over at Disney to make "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" sound like a great subject for a children's film. I remember reading that book, let's see... everyone cries, everyone dies but not before they are mistreated or tortured and that priest guy, what a sick loony he turned out to be. The few characters that didn't end up executed or dumped out of windows were so unlikable you are left wondering if Victor Hugo had it in for his readers, or maybe the guy just needed a LOT of therapy.
So Disney, in its infinite abysmal judgement, decides that the ideal summer treat for youngsters is "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" featuring the voice of Demi Moore and sure fire top ten hit song called "God Bless All the Ugly People, and Make Them Buy This Album". Did anyone think to tell them that this was not the best idea? Did Disney listen? Clearly not.
Once upon a time, a poor gypsy woman went to Notre Dame, and this twisted sicko priest killed her. Unfortunately, this total sick wacko didn't notice her baby until it was too late to kill him, so instead he raised the baby as a pathetic shut-in and gave him an entry level job ringing the bells in the tower. The baby grows up to be Quasimodo (voice of Tom Hulce), scary looking, and possibly crazy (he talks to the gargoyles and they talk back, and then they all sing). What a happy tale this is, our hero the pathetic mentally disturbed deformed shut-in and his happy gargoyle pals, singing away.
One day, Quasimodo goes out into the world, only to end up humiliated in the town square, Medieval Paris being the understanding and compassionate place that it was. He is rescued by Esmerelda, a gypsy girl (voiced by Demi Moore with all the passionate charm of a cheese grater), whose people are being persecuted by Frollo, the wackjob freak who killed Quasimodo's (or Quasi, for short) mother thirty minutes ago. Esmerelda has a thing for Phoebus the guard (Kevin Kline at his Pirate King best), but she ends up hanging with Quasi after Frollo tries to have her arrested.
Now, Victor Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is so depressing and yucky, that reading through most of it is a form of torture. In the Hugo novel, Esmerelda does not go waltzing through the church singing about "God Bless the Ugly" or some nonsense. It just makes no sense for people who are living under threat of horrible death with a scary shut-in for a roomie to be waltzing around singing happy songs. How the hell did Disney come up with this? How can a loving God allow this to happen?
By the end, everyone is all happily settled and Frollo is dumped out a window or impaled on a spike, I forget which (maybe it was both). Esmerelda gets Phoebus and Quasi gets the love and admiration of all those open-minded Parisians that used to diss him. The gypsies are free from persecution and the bad guys are dead. Needless to say, these are some HUGE plot liberties that Disney took.
Is the movie that bad? Let's see, a butchered classic, a pretentious soppy song, a preachy message about tolerance, singing gargoyles and the gravelly voice of Demi Moore, do you even need to ask? Could it be that Disney will animate any damn thing that floats through their stoned little heads in the hopes of selling more plush toys?
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