Warning: Contains spoilers***
This is one of the few 2nd Disney Renaissance films I have watched in the movie theater due to my age now (24). I was five at the time I saw “Tarzan”. I don’t remember my opinion then.
However, I will tell you what I thought when I saw “Tarzan” twice in recent years. Although I liked it more seeing it the second time, this review is going to reflect my opinions on the film the first time I saw it recently.
We all know the story. As a baby, Tarzan gets stranded in the jungle with his parents. His mom and dad build a tree house, but die right after. A female gorilla named Kala, who has just lost her own young, takes Tarzan and raises him. Tarzan grows up wondering why he is different. He tries to fit in. When he reaches adulthood, he discovers humans and can relate to them better. A young woman named Jane falls in love with Tarzan. Tarzan is interested in her, as well. However, his interest to people becomes the feeling of betrayal to his animal pals. Tarzan has to make a tough decision.
While I would give the other Disney movies from the second Renaissance 5 stars, I would only give “Tarzan” 3.5 stars. Something about it wasn’t as engaging as the other Disney films from that era. I don’t know if it was because there isn’t much in the way of singing from the characters, except partly by Kala in the number, “You’ll Be In My Heart”, or some other mysterious element. It just didn’t hold my attention as much as the films from “The Little Mermaid” to “Mulan”.
However, some scenes engaged my emotions. For instance, when Tarzan puts clothes on to join the people, I almost thought he was ditching his animal friends, but also making the right choice. I also found Kerchak to be too unlikable until he died. He was too dark as an adoptive gorilla father. I understand that that’s an important element to the story and his character. But I feel like a gentle mother and rough father is too cliched, even back in 1999.
One the bright note, I admired the ending where Professor Porter and Jane join Tarzan in the jungle. That twist surprised and amazed me. Another positive aspect was when Tantor thought Tarzan was a piranha, and his mother had to keep reminding him, “There are no piranhas in Africa.” I just found that humorous.
Would I recommend “Tarzan”? Despite finding it just okay, the answer is still yes. The songs sung by the music crew were still fantastic. The characters were still well-developed. And the story still held up enough emotion and conflict.