Newest Reviews
Guilty, The
Stranger in the House
G.G. Passion
Chien Andalou, Un
Bulldog Drummond
First Man
Machete Maidens Unleashed!
Cannibal Club, The
Grasshopper, The
Human Desire
Stiff Upper Lips
American Animals
World on a Wire
Velvet Buzzsaw
Dick Dickman, PI
Hunter Killer
30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock, The
Race for the Yankee Zephyr
Boys in the Band, The
Newest Articles
He-Maniacs: Ridiculous 80s Action
All's Welles That Ends Welles: Orson Welles Great Mysteries Volume 1 on DVD
Shut It! The Sweeney Double Bill: Two Blu-rays from Network
Network Sitcom Movie Double Bill: Till Death Us Do Part and Man About the House on Blu-ray
No, THIS Must Be the Place: True Stories on Blu-ray
Alf Garnett's Life After Death: Till Death... and The Thoughts of Chairman Alf on DVD
Balance of Power: Harold Pinter at the BBC on DVD
Strange Days 2: The Second Science Fiction Weirdness Wave
Strange Days: When Science Fiction Went Weird
Ha Ha Haaargh: Interview With Camp Death III in 2D! Director Matt Frame
Phone Freak: When a Stranger Calls on Blu-ray
A Name to Conjure With: David Nixon's Magic Box on DVD
Which 1950s Sci-Fi was Scariest? Invaders from Mars vs The Blob
The Empire Strikes Back: Khartoum vs Carry On Up the Khyber
Stan and Ollie's Final Folly: Atoll K on Blu-ray
  Hunchback of Notre Dame, The The Bells Are RingingBuy this film here.
Year: 1996
Director: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Stars: Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, Kevin Kline, Tony Jay, Paul Kandel, Jason Alexander, Charles Kimbrough, Mary Wickes, David Ogden Stiers, Heidi Mollenhauer, Mary Kay Bergman
Genre: Musical, Animated, Historical
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: During olden times in the city of Paris, Judge Frollo (voiced by Tony Jay) ruled over the citizens with an iron fist, with one particular obsession: to drive out the gypsies. He caused the death of one young gypsy mother while pursuing her to the steps of Notre Dame cathedral, and was about to drown her misshapen baby in the well when he was persuaded not to, and give the child over to the church. The child was named Quasimodo (Tom Hulce), meaning "half-formed" due to its hunch back and deformed face, and he grew up only knowing the safety of the cathedral, with the cruel Frollo as his teacher and mentor. Now the bellringer, Quasimodo looks down from the towers at the preparations for the Feast of Fools below, wishing he could join in, but knowing his master has forbidden it. However, if covered himself with his cloak and went down there, who would know?

Written by Tab Murphy, Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, Bob Tzudiker and Noni White, The Hunchback of Notre Dame was Disney's version of the classic Victor Hugo novel, and was seen as an unusual choice for the studio when it was first released. It still seems a little strange now, as it marries Allan Menken and Stephen Schwartz's sweeping songs and humour aimed at the kids with brooding drama, all in the form of colourful animation. Quasimodo is presented as a typical movie outsider, never leaving his home or interacting with anyone other than Frollo, and has serious self-esteem issues - but at least he's not deaf in this version. He does have friends however, in a distinctively Disney development the stone gargoyles who share his hideaway, appropriately named Victor (Charles Kimbrough), Hugo (Jason Alexander) and, er, Laverne (Mary Wickes) - was Laverne Victor Hugo's middle name, perhaps?

Anyway, Quasimodo goes against Frollo's wishes and ventures down to ground level to check out the celebrations. In a clever scene, his attempts to go unnoticed ironically lead to him getting caught up in the event, and eventually he blunders into the tent of Esmeralda (Demi Moore), a gypsy dancer who picks him up and compliments him on his mask. Unfortunately, things go downhill from then on for the smitten hunchback, as he is found out, named King of the Fools, tied up and has stuff thrown at him for the delight of the crowd - and the attending Frollo, who believes a lesson should be taught. Only Esmeralda takes pity on the poor soul, and frees him from his bonds, earning the wrath of Frollo who fights his desire for her by demanding she be hunted down by his guards.

Most Disney cartoons need a good villain, whether it's the wicked queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cruella De Vil from One Hundred and One Dalmations or Jafar from Aladdin, and Notre Dame capitalises on its hissable baddie here. He's given depth by being tormented by his passion for the gypsy girl and his drive to kill her for his twisted principles, and a religious angle is introduced where Frollo's hypocrisy is contrasted with Esmeralda's praying in the cathedral (having been given sanctuary) for God to look after the outcasts, of which she is one - although not as much as Quasimodo is. We don't see the hunchback indulging in much bellringing, in fact he appears to spend his hours fashioning models from wood (although no recreation of the cathedral from matchsticks), but he does have plenty of time for soul searching as his imaginary friends try to cheer him up.

The other main character is Phoebus (Kevin Kline), the Captain of the Guard who has also taken a liking to Esmeralda and becomes Quasimodo's rival in love - as if there were any competition. The hunchback's love is doomed from the start, and the best he can hope for is winning some affection for saving the gypsy girl's life. With all this tragedy going on, the film's bids to jolly the story up bring an uncertain tone, and the humour seems out of place. It's as if they wanted to make a serious, adult cartoon but felt bound to bring in the family audiences - such lightening of dark subject matter worked for Oliver!, but not so well here, and its odd hearing Quasimodo belting out a love song or two across the rooftops. Maybe they should have ditched the jokes, because the animation is very fine, but it's worth pointing out that the happy ending they add to the story doesn't jar too much here - it's about time Quasimodo had some contentment after all these years, even if he doesn't get the girl.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


This review has been viewed 6140 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star do you think makes the best coffee?
Emma Stone
Anna Kendrick
Michelle Rodriguez
Sir Patrick Stewart

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
George White
Enoch Sneed
Stately Wayne Manor
Paul Smith
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
Aseels Almasi


Last Updated: