Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

When I think of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, I think of a movie that I enjoyed as a kid but didn't leave as a big an impression on me as, say, The Lion King did. However, when watching it again this time I liked it a lot more than I expected to. It was much, much better a movie than I had remembered. It was also a Disney movie that Jason hadn't seen (gasp!), and so it was completely new to him.

First of all, I really like the story. It was, as Jason said, a very action-packed Disney movie. There is romance, suspense, all that good stuff. Although it's certainly altered from the original novel (like any Disney movie), they do a really good job adapting it into its own story.

Jason's one complaint was that he felt that most of the characters were not realistic enough because they were too good and didn't have faults, except for Quasimodo. But he felt this way about Esmeralda and Phoebus. Personally, I thought they were all interesting character. I really like Esmeralda a lot. If she was one of the princesses I would certainly count her as one of my favorites. She's tough but she's got a good heart. She's beautiful but she really cares about people. She's not naive or stupid, like Meg from Hercules, but she's also a lot more likable than Meg. I suppose Phoebus is probably the weakest character, he's your typical good guy.

Some of the themes were really good - interesting and meaningful. Standing up for what you believe in, and the idea of someone you trust who has been constantly lying to you your whole life. Also, of course, our judgement of others based on their looks and how we treat people different than us. As a teacher I immediately see bullying - even in 15th century Paris, people are not so different than how they act today when confronted with people that are different or unusual.

The ending was perfect, in my opinion. Although you certainly want Quasimodo to end up with Esmeralda, something about that would be really hard to buy. It's just not probable, so it makes sense that she ends up with Phoebus. However, that doesn't mean it's a sad ending for Quasimodo. He gets friends, and he gets to know that people finally see the real him and he'll be able to go out into the world now. He doesn't seem too upset about it by the end either.

The Music

Again, this is another area where it just seems like Hunchback doesn't get much credit - but I really loved the music. "Out There" is by far my favorite song from the soundtrack. It's perfect for Quasimodo - semi-sad, semi-happy, but pulsing with energy. When discussing Hercules, I mentioned that I never really liked his big song, "Go the Distance," because something about it just fell flat or didn't work. I feel like "Out There" is what "Go the Distance" could have and should have been. Anyway, The Hunchback of Notre Dame has lots of other good songs, including "The Bells of Notre Dame," "Topsy Turvy," "God Help the Outcasts," and a few others.

The Villain
Frollo is really an evil villain, more evil than many of the others if only because he is completely real. He doesn't have magical powers, spellbooks, or evil spirits to do his bidding for him. There is nothing supernatural about him. Instead he is a cruel, heartless man, treating people terribly because they are different from him, and doing it all in the name of God. There have been very real people like this throughout history, which just makes him a little more scary. He acts so nice and caring to everyone, but he is really terrible inside. He gets what he deserves. I find his death to be rather similar to what happens in The Lion King. They're both on the ledge, and Frollo confesses that he killed Quasimodo's mother. (Very reminiscent of Scar's "I killed Mufasa"). However, instead of Frollo plunging to his death because of Quasimodo's anger, he quotes the Bible, saying "God shall smite the wicked." And then he is indeed smited. Score.

The Disney World Connection
Quasimodo and friends don't make too much of an appearance in WDW. You might be able to find the characters occasionally, but the one attraction dedicated to the movie, a show in MGM studios, didn't stick around very long.

My rating: 9 out of 10
Jason's rating: 8 out of 10

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