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Treasure Planet

Even if Robert Louis Stevenson's children's classic Treasure Island begged for another remake, it didn't necessarily beg for a remake set in space. Disney's animated feature Treasure Planet seems to recognize this fact by ignoring it; once established, the setting pretty much drifts in the background without further comment. Set in a universe that owes as much to Ray Bradbury as to Stevenson, Planet has ships that fly through space, but they look like they belong on the high seas. The alien pirates act like classic scalawags, and the loot takes a classic form: mounds of gold and jewels. The production design cleverly fuses past and future, but even with dimensional portals, robots, and the rest, this is Treasure Island all over again. And why not, if it works? Joseph Gordon-Levitt provides the voice for the alternate-universe Jim Hawkins, a high-spirited, trouble-prone boy who comes to possess a map to a planet of unimaginable wealth. Enlisting the help of a friendly, timid, dog-eared scientist (a funny David Hyde Pierce) and a fearless, feline captain (Emma Thompson), Hawkins sets sail in search of adventure. He quickly learns that there's more to space-life than solar surfing and laser cannons when he's assigned to work in a kitchen under the watch of a salty cyborg cook named John Silver (voiced by Brian Murray) who may have an agenda of his own. With much more success than last summer's formula-bound Atlantis, Treasure Planet finds the common ground between classic Disney animation and newfangled action-adventure films. On the technical level, it combines conventional animation and digital elements with few seams; on the story level, it does the same with eye-popping setpieces and quiet moments of character development, as the hero finds the father he never had in the form of a man who will inevitably betray him. Ultimately, some extra cargo keeps Planet from developing into a top-rank Disney film. A final act piles on the action too heavily, a Jar-Jar-esque Martin Short-voiced android arrives late but quickly wears out his welcome, and a montage sequence makes the mistake of voicing Hawkins' inner conflict in the form of a bland song by Goo Goo Dolls singer Johnny Rzeznik. Those small problems aside, Treasure Planet makes for a great old story neatly buffed for the future.


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