Directors: Kevin Lima & Chris Buck
Screenplay: Tab Murphy and Bob Tzudiker & Noni White, from the story Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Voices: Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Glenn Close
NY Distribution Status: now playing (Disney)

Grade: C+

Reviewing the latest animated Disney spectacular is a bit like writing a news story about the year's first big heat wave: try as you might to avoid the obvious clichés -- words like "scorcher" and "blistering"; reports on brisk sales of air conditioners and fans; admonitions to drink plenty of fluids and avoid heavy exercise -- you're eventually forced to concede that there are only so many ways of conveying the idea that it hadn't been hot for some time but that yesterday was very hot indeed. Halfway through the first draft of this piece, I began to experience a severe case of déjà écrit; sure enough, upon rereading my assessment of 1996's equally overrated The Hunchback of Notre Dame, I found many of the same basic ideas that I'd started to develop vis-à-vis ape-boy, including a handful of phrases that I'd repeated almost verbatim. Rather than waste your time decrying yet again Disney's cowardly insistence on bending classic tales to fit their tired old alienated-misfit-seeking-parental-approval formula, I'll just quickly note a) that the snarky wit and cheerful cynicism that made Hercules such an unexpected pleasure is nowhere in evidence here; b) that while Tarzan is not, thank christ, a full-fledged musical, it is periodically infested by faux-African Phil Collins songs so bombastically insipid that they make "Against All Odds" sound like "All Along the Watchtower" by comparison (and I speak as someone who's not embarrassed to own Collins' first two solo albums; check out 1982's creepily voyeuristic "Thru These Walls" if you think he's always been this bland); and c) that while the animation is typically superb, the frantic simulation of live-action camera movements in Disney pictures is getting out of hand -- this is jungle as jungle gym, with Tarzan frequently eschewing his traditional vines in favor of a more zippy approach, gliding at breakneck speed along tree branches on the soles of his feet as if riding an invisible skateboard, while the camera careens around him so vertiginously that I half-expected my seat to begin moving in tandem, as in one of those motion-control amusement-park rides. Once upon a time, I might have been more impressed; following the one-two punch of last fall's smarter, funnier, computer-animated insect flicks, however, my patience with the Mouse's methodology is wearing a bit thin.