Directed by Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Written by Tab Murphy
Starring the voices of Michael J. Fox, James Garner



I happened to see the new Disney animated film "Atlantis" with a theatre-full of children, and within the first five minutes a third of them had run screaming from the theatre, frightened out of their wits and dragging their parents, or elders anyway, out with them as a monstrous cataclysm and tidal wave, with accompanying volcanic sounds, overcame the gentle people of Atlantis and sent the place down, down, down, somewhere below the sea. In myth Atlantis was a continent. In this film it looks about the size of Scarsdale, a nice suburban community with some giant thing at the center that the last survivors rally to, for safety, just in time. I think.

So who is it at Disney who decides their films should be marketed to young children? And more to the point, who writes these dull, repetitious, instantly predictable films that crank up the terror every few minutes by inserting unexpected and unmotivated shocks - with the sound ramped up to maximum - anyway? I have no problem with children's films, with scary films, with animated films, with - hey, I'm a film critic. But this endless series of formulaic, trite, meretricious films must surely by now have reached its saturation point.

Disney is no doubt patting itself on the back for using a more anime style of animation, with little or no modeling, flat planes, and much zippier action than we're accustomed to from this studio. But the story is so illogical that even the most devoted semiotician would have trouble parsing it. After the opening tragedy, in which the Atlantisians (Atlanters? Atlanticos?) speak Gobbledydisney with subtitles, the film takes us forward to 1914, where young Milo Thatch (the voice of Michael J. Fox), grandson of a renowned Atlantis scholar, tries to form an expedition to look for the place somewhere under the coast of Iceland.

A benefactor provides him with an enormous boat, a kind of underwater Starship Enterprise, and a crew, and off they go, I believe underwater all the way, but don't take my word for it. The ethnically correct crew is headed by Captain Rourke (James Garner), and includes a black doctor, an Hispanic mechanic (Jacqueline Obradors, a kind of low-rent Rosie Perez), plus Don Novello in his Guido Sarducci voice, though not his robes, and a few others who I hope were well paid for their time. There's even a cute line, from Roarke's sarcastic right-handmaiden Helga (Claudia Christian) to Milo: "Cartographer, linguist, plumber - it's hard to believe you're still single."

But the film is so illogical, so badly thought-out structurally, so unwitty in its dialogue, and so uninteresting visually, that we must wonder who's supposed to come see it. Too violent for young children, too illogical for teens, too stupid for adults, it's truly a film with nothing for everybody.