A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hercules about what it really means to be a hero is a shade darker than many other Disney blockbusters. There's a lot of gore and intense, scary stuff for a G-rated movie, including gruesome monsters and end-of-the-world images (floods, fires, ice storms, mass destruction) that might overshadow the more lighthearted musical components. Some kids may also be confused or even upset about the underworld and what happens when people die.
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What's the story?
According to Disney, HERCULES was the adored son of gods Zeus and Hera, stolen by Hades, ruler of the underworld, and made mortal. He must become a true hero to become a god again so he can live with his parents on Mount Olympus. To do this, Hercules (voiced by Tate Donovan) seeks out a grouchy satyr (Danny DeVito), who trains him in fighting techniques and strategy. When he saves some children (so he thinks) and defeats the hydra (its many heads masterfully provided by computer animation), he becomes an instant celebrity, with action figures and "Air Hercules" sandals. He goes on to his other labors but finds that it's not enough to be a real hero -- that comes from the heart, not the muscles. Meanwhile, Meg (Susan Egan), who sold her soul to Hades to save the life of her boyfriend, must now try to find Hercules' weakness so that Hades can take over Olympus.
Is it any good?
Kids will need some preparation for this movie; scant exposition is provided by the movie's Spice Girl-style "muses" (a sort of gospel Greek chorus that's fun to watch, but hard to follow). The role of the three fates, who share one eye between them and cut a thread when a human's life is ended, is particularly confusing. Meg is tougher and braver than the traditional damsel in distress, but still very much on the sidelines. The movie's other weakness is its lackluster score.
Hercules' teenage protagonist may not be Disney's most memorable hero, but the movie's bad guy turns in a performance of astonishing verve -- as Hades, James Woods will join Cruella DeVille in the pantheon of unforgettable Disney villains. Sidekicks Pain and Panic (Bobcat Goldthwait and Matt "Max Headroom" Frewer) are wickedly funny as well.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about real-life heroes. What makes someone a hero? How does society treat its heroes? Why do we buy products endorsed by athletes (or movie tie-ins)? How do real-life heroes compare to the heroes in Hercules?
Is wanting to be a god a good reason to want to be a hero? Do we see any evidence that Hercules (or anyone else in the movie) has much concern for the well-being of the community?
Does this movie seem scarier than other animated kids' movies? Why or why not?
- In theaters: June 27, 1997
- On DVD or streaming: August 1, 2000
- Cast: Danny DeVito, James Woods, Tate Donovan
- Directors: John Musker, Ron Clements
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- MPAA explanation: some scary scenes
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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