Let's face it this has got to be the worst disney movie in terms of being faithful to it's source material. The characters are very different, most of the iffy stuff is either gone or barely implied, the main villain wasn't even a villain in the original myths, and it can be predictable, but you know what?
I honestly can look past most of this, in fact, Disney's Hercules is a favorite of mine. While we're still facing things let's also face this, the original story of HERACLES (yeah, HERACLES, not Hercules) or hell, ANY greek myth at all is just not family friendly material. Changes would have to be made, though I'll get back to that later.
Anyway let's go to the story which is told by 5 of the 9 Muses, Hercules in this version is a god, not a DEMI-god but a regular god, born to Zeus (played by Rip Torn of all people) AND Hera and is practically adored by everyone (even Ares) except for Hades (played by James Woods) who wants to get rid of Hercules as fast as he can.
Why? Because Hades plans one ruling the cosmos by freeing (and controlling) some entities that Zeus locked away a long time ago called the Titans. (Hmm, weird. Every time I type or say that I get the strangest feeling that somewhere a mythology buff is either in rage or tears over this).
So, with the "help" of his minions Pain and Panic, he manages to turn Hercules mortal and Pain and Panic end up hiding him. Unfortunately, since Pain and Panic are "bumbling" minions they drop the bottle holding the mortal potion before Hercules can drop the last drop, which means he still has his godly strength.
After he unknowingly kicks both of their butts, a couple finds Hercules and decides to raise him. During the years however Hercules is often treated like a freak and doesn't feel like he belongs where he is. And it turns out he's totally right, for his foster parents reveal to him that he's adopted and, since the metal he was found with had the symbol of the gods ingrained on it, Hercules goes off to a temple to find Zeus' statue (which I think is supposed to be the same one that's one of the seven wonders of the world).
Then Zeus somehow transfers his soul into the statue to talk to Hercules more directly. He basically tells Hercules to become a true hero in order to become a god (yeah that's totally how it works) and tells him to seek out Philoctetes a well known trainer of heroes.
Hercules agrees and after some convincing, manages to have Phil (played by Danny Devito) train into becoming a hero. I won't say anything else about the plot besides the fact that he meets a love interest named Megara since I'm pretty sure you could figure out what happens next.
Now then, let's get on to the actual review. First of all let me restate this, I'm totally fine with making a lot of changes to the story of Heracles since it's NOT family friendly at all. However I feel that the movie made too many changes to the story, from replacing characters, to compositing characters, to adding a happy ending, to making a god who really didn't appear much in the original story not only a main character but the main villain!
Yeah, Hades wasn't treated kindly in this version however there are two things that make him one of my favorite villains. One is his design, it looks cool with that flame on his head and that baggy garb with the skull motif. The other thing is the personality, this is got to be one of the funniest villains I've seen, even funnier than the Queen of Hearts!
It's mostly because of how odd it is, you see originally Hades was going to be a more boring and slow villain however when James Woods came in to audition he instead went for a different approach, acting more like a lawyer or an agent. The crew loved it and the script was revised to make Hades more like the lovable villain he is today.
However like I said, he's still the bad guy which is I feel that doesn't have to be. In the original myth the big bad was actually Hera because Zeus cheated on her again (you heard right AGAIN) and often made Heracles' life a living pain because that was the only way she could get Zeus back.
While they'd have to make a few changes Hera still could have worked as a villain, she'd kind of be like the stepmother from Cinderella. Heck, why didn't they make Typhon the bad guy? I mean sure that character's not a part of the original myth also but at least he did take over Mount Olympus and it'd be a nice nod to the mythology buffs.
Plus the muses can get a little groan worthy, not a lot but there are some times where I can't look at the screen because their comedy is kind of painful to watch but like I said it doesn't happen a lot, in fact it usually lasts for about a second or two.
Anyway, whine whine whine I thought you liked this movie 1upmushroom don't lie to me! Ok, ok I'll get to the stuff I did like.
First of all, I liked two of the main characters, Hades (like I said) and Phil because I like Danny Devito and also because he has a great training montage number called "One Last Hope". While on the subject of numbers, I also really liked the music and songs of the film.
The main three I liked is "One Last Hope", "A star was Born", and "Zero to Hero". The whole gospel thing can be a bit distracting but I like it ok.
The designs are very cool, they're done by Gerald Scarfe (a VERY surprising choice, by Disney at least) and I think his work is actually used pretty well. Something interesting I noticed was that Zeus here actually looks a lot like he did in the Pastoral Symphony segment from Fantasia.
However the real reason I enjoy this movie is the humor and in-jokes! Why? Because if you look hard enough, there are tons and I mean TONS of references to Greek Mythology, from other gods to the 12 labors Hercules had to face, to even references of OEDIPUS! In fact Hercules' line "And I thought 'I' had problems" in remark to the play is probably the funniest line in the film if you know what he's talking about.
So yeah, Hercules does have flaws like too many changes in the story, the fact that Hades is a bad guy, and some minor parts with the muses, but overall it's a great movie and one of my favorites.
Oh, wait I have to say what parents have to watch out for don't I? Well while there's not a lot of gore as Common Media implied there is a lot of action that little kids probably take, there are some sexual innuendos but nothing too obvious.
I guess if I were to make one definite reason not to show this to younger kids it would probably be because of the fact that it's based on Greek Mythology. Why? Well some kids might want to learn more about the Greek myths and they'll either be exhausted from reading them because there are so many tales and so many versions of the tales that it's hard to manage. And then of course there's the actual content in the myths which is pretty adult.
However I'd say let them watch it, I remember watching it when I was either 4 or 5 and I don't remember too badly affected by it.
Anyway, I give Hercules a 4 out of 5, it's a flawed movie but a fun one none the less.