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Tarzan (1999) – DVD Review

Tarzan (1999) DVD cover art


Written by Tab Murphy, Bob Tzudiker, Noni White, Henry Mayo, David Reynolds, based on the novel Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Directed by Chris Buck and Kevin Lima
Starring Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Glenn Close, Brian Blessed, Nigel Hawthorne, Lance Henriksen, Wayne Knight, Alex D. Linz and Rosie O’Donnell


  • Terk’s Tree Surfing Challenge – 3 All New Games
  • DisneyPedia: Living in the Jungle
  • Deleted Scenes including Alternate Opening
  • Filmmaker’s Audio Commentary
  • All-New Music Video featuring The Wildly Popular Everlife
  • Music Videos featuring Phil Collins and ‘N Sync

Released by: Disney Home Entertainment
Rating: G
Region: 1
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Skip it.

[ad#longpost]Tarzan (Linz and, in older form, Goldwyn) was lost at sea and rescued and raised by the Apes in deepest, darkest Africa. He just so happened to make really good friends with an ape named Terk (O’Donnell) and an elephant named Tantor (Knight). Along comes a British expedition composed of an aging researcher named Porter (Hawthorne), a brute of a man named Clayton (Blessed), and the beautiful Jane Porter (Driver). Jane discovers Tarzan, who just so happens to have been wondering why he’s different from all the other apes. Through Jane and Porter, he learns that he is human and is forced to decide whether to continue to live among the apes or go with the humans. Oh yeah, since Clayton is only out to kill an ape, Tarzan must save his family from destruction, too.

The things I put myself through for you people. I swear…

For nearly five years, I had refused to see this movie just on general principles because the Academy decided to give the Oscar for Best Original Song to Phil Collins rather than any of the other, more deserving songs that year. I was personally pulling for “Blame Canada” from South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, but would have been okay with “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story 2.

But I digress. I was right to have avoided this movie. It’s just awful. Don’t get me wrong the talent involved is great and the animation is as good as can be expected from a Disney film these days. The major flaw with this movie is the writing, pacing and use of song. The writing is just terrible. I know that the inclusion of two “buddy” characters has worked in the past for Disney, but in this case it just sucked. I can’t chalk it up completely to talent because O’Donnell and Knight together should have been an absolute riot, but they weren’t. It’s got to fall back to direction and writing. Don’t get me wrong, there were a couple of sight gags that worked well, but they weren’t enough to save the movie. For example, when the apes finally get to see the human camp for the first time, they are confronted with all of the human things like clock, candles and teapots (all of the characters from Beauty and the Beast) and they are afraid of them. It’s just a funny bit and I giggled, but only for a second and then the film lost me again.

The DVD is okay. Thankfully, there is a commentary track. It features producer Bonnie Arnold and directors Kevin Lima and Chris Buck. Listening to the commentary track, it did nothing but to solidify my opinion of the writing and music. They know what they are talking about with their movie. They know what they were going for, even though they weren’t always honest with themselves about having acheived it. The track is nothing spectacular, but it’s always a good thing to include on any (every) DVD. The games included are the cheesy play on your television kind and don’t take advantage of the DVD-ROM capabilities that most consumers have at their disposal nowadays. Kids won’t be interested in playing them because the games won’t hold the kids’ interest for any reasonable length of time.

The DisneyPedia featurette is probably one of the best to be found on this disc. It’s an educational look at some of the animals found in the jungle. It’s a narrated documentary (albeit geared towards kids) complete with stock animal footage mixed in with shots from the movie. Its educational value is what makes it worth while; the writing for the voice-over is almost as hideous as the writing for the movie. The only other features on the disc are some music videos…and we all know how useless music videos are on a DVD. This is just insult to injury because of the Phil Collins Oscar thing. And no, I won’t get over it.

If you’ve never seen the movie, I suggest you skip it and get one of the classic Disney movies. If you are absolutely stuck on seeing some good Disney animals, watch Lion King.

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