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Quest For Camelot

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Quest For Camelot

Starring: Cary Elwes, Gary Oldman
Director: Frederick Du Chan
Rated: G
RunTime: 85 Minutes
Release Date: May 1998
Genres: Animation, Kids, Music

*Also starring: Eric Idle, Don Rickles, Jane Seymour, Pierce Brosnan, Bronson Pinchot, Jaleel White, Gabriel Byrne, John Gielgud

Review by MrBrown
2 stars out of 4

With the visually spectacular and entertaining Anastasia, Fox declared itself a worthy contender to Disney's feature animation throne. Now comes the Warner Bros. stab at animation riches, Quest for Camelot, and if this shoddy enterprise is what it considers topline animated entertainment, the studio is a mere pretender to the Mouse's throne.

As is the case with most underwhelming live action films, one of the roots of Quest's mediocrity is the script, written by Kirk DeMicco, William Schifrin, Jacqueline Feather, and David Seidler from Vera Chapman's novel The King's Damosel. The story is just about nonexistent, boiling down to an extended, uninteresting search for a sword. Dastardly former knight Ruber (voice of Gary Oldman) steals King Arthur's (Pierce Brosnan) magic sword Excalibur, only to lose it in the forest. Ruber and his crew of baddies search for it, as does the courageous daughter of deceased knight Lionel (Gabriel Byrne), Kayley (Jessalyn Gilsig), who is joined in her quest by the blind loner Garrett (Cary Elwes) and the two-headed (conjoined?) dragon(s) Devon (Eric Idle) and Cornwall (Don Rickles).

Anastasia set the bar for non-Disney animation high with its opening glimpse of a stunningly realistic, computer-animated music box. Quest counters with a shot has become cliche in live action features: the trusty camera-travelling-over-water shot. But this is a minor quibble in a film teeming with visual problems. The art is strictly Saturday morning-level, a point which is underscored further a scene where Kayley and Garrett face a computer-generated giant ogre; unlike in Anastasia or any given Disney effort, the CGI and the traditional cel animation do not mesh convincingly at all. The ogre, as impressive as it looks, looks completely out of place, appearing to have wandered in from a better, bigger-budgeted film. The worst visual sin committed by director Frederik DuChau and the animation crew is the sloppy lipsynching, especially during the musical numbers, where the voices often do not match the characters' mouth movements.

Even more distracting is the noticeable difference between the characters' singing and speaking voices. In Disney features (or, for that matter, Anastasia), the singing and speaking voices can plausibly originate from the same set of vocal cords. Although there are a couple of exceptions--Gilsig and Andrea Corr sound remarkably similar as Kayley; and the Jane Seymour/Celine Dion teamup for Kayley's mother, Lady Juliana, works surprisingly well--too often the voices are wildly dissimilar. When Garrett breaks into song, Elwes's soft, Brit-accented tones suddenly change into those of raspy Yank country-western singer Bryan White. The biggest stretch of all is the tandem for King Arthur: current 007 Brosnan and... former Journey frontman Steve Perry?! The stretch casting would be forgivable if David Foster and Carole Bayer Sager's songs were the least bit memorable. Suffice it to say, they aren't.

Quest for Camelot follows the tried-and-true Disney formula fairly closely--"I Want" song, villainous scheme number, love duet, final confrontation--but DuChau fails to realize that the key to Disney's success in animation is not necessarily the formula but a generous helping of imagination and magic to go with it. While their Anastasia was not a complete triumph, directors Don Bluth and Gary Goldman were able to create some superb, haunting moments that rank with, if not surpass, some of Disney's. If Quest is any indication, Warner Bros. Feature Animation, which enjoyed a successful launch with 1996's Space Jam, is severely out of its depth.

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