Treasure Planet (2002)
Directed by Ron Clements & John Musker

Artistic Value: * * ½
Entertainment Value: * * * ½

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When Jim Hawkins, a juvenile delinquent living with his mother on a mining planet, is given a map showing the location of the treasure collected by the most famous space pirate who ever lived, he and Doctor Doppler, a dog-like astronomer, hire a ship under the command of the sexy but feline Captain Amelia and set out to retrieve it. What they do not know is that most of the crewmen they hired are actually pirates commanded by John Silver, a burly cyborg who is posing as the ship's cook.

Ron Clements and John Musker's animated Treasure Planet is a fun if forgettable retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island.

The directors have filled their movie with all the swashbuckling adventure of the original tale, but have moved the story's setting to some distant future age in which men, robots, cyborgs, and various outlandish aliens travel across the galaxy on spaceships that look like Seventeenth or Eighteenth Century sea-going vessels, except that they are equipped with solar sails, rockets, and antigravity engines.

Fortunately, most of these new elements are well realized visually and are almost sure to keep the viewer's attention throughout the film's duration. At various times, the directors unveil such wonders as a spider-like pirate captain leaping madly onto another ship, to which his own is clinging with robotic legs, alien forests composed entirely of mushrooms as big as redwoods, pods of strange whales living in the interstellar void, and a bustling space station shaped like a crescent moon. There is hardly a moment in the movie that does not present the viewer with something that will catch his eye.

The directors' depictions of the heroes' various adventures, which are alive with sword fights, acrobatic stunts, weird technological items, and marvellous backdrops, are also consistently engaging. Although their attempts to show how Jim and John Silver bond, and how the old pirate comes to take the place of the boy's father, who abandoned him while he was still a child, are more than a little sappy and contrived, the action sequences that surround these generally make up for such shortcomings and actually keep the movie thrilling.

That said, there is a great deal in Treasure Planet that is irksome. For one thing, Clements and Musker have included all the insipid cuteness that so many directors of children's movies apparently think are needed in such works. For example, the hero's shape changing little alien buddy, Morph, is a big-eyed pink blob that makes adorable noises and is always up to something mischievous. He is endlessly annoying.

What is worse, Morph is not the only grating character in the film. Jim, when presented as child, is so saccharine his very presence threatens the viewer with diabetes, and Doctor Doppler is a stereotypical absent minded, goofy scientist. These two are, however, nothing when compared to B.E.N., a hyperactive amnesiac robot that the protagonists meet near the film's conclusion. He is horrible to listen to, and his antics are more likely to torment the viewer than to amuse him.

While its numerous faults prevent Treasure Planet from ever being more than a mindless diversion, it does succeed as that. It may not be memorable, but it is, at the very least, entertaining.

Review by Keith Allen

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