Baseball doesn’t hold quite the same magic as it once did. That’s why they had to set Everyone's Hero in the Depression-era when the New York Yankees ruled the game and their star player Babe Ruth sat on the throne. As the story goes a young boy named Yankee Irving (Jake T. Austin) has to save his dad’s job as a janitor at Yankee Stadium after Ruth’s beloved bat is stolen by the big bad Chicago Cubs owner (Robin Williams) and his lackey (William H. Macy) right before the World Series. Yankee’s dad is blamed for the theft so the kid obsessed with the Babe and doesn’t want his family living in the streets sets out on an adventure to get the bat back. He has some help chiefly from an old forgotten baseball (Rob Reiner) —who was once in the Show but got hit out of the park as a lousy foul ball—and the bat itself nicknamed Darlin’ (Whoopi Goldberg) who sasses her way through the shenanigans. Warms your heart already doesn’t it? It seems everyone’s having a good time. Reiner is particularly cantankerous as Screwie voicing the baseball as if he was an old Jewish man yelling at the kids on the street for making too much noise. Not a whole lot to like about the character but he provides comic foil especially with Goldberg as the pampered bat who knows how kind the real Babe is. For some odd reason Williams is un-credited as the blowhard Cubs owner Napoleon Cross but it’s not too hard to pick out his distinctive voice. Maybe the actor didn’t want to be labeled a bad guy. But Macy is sufficiently wacky as Cross’ henchman and Cubs pitcher Lefty McGinnis who has all manner of bad things happen to him--electrocuted hit by a train you get the picture—as he chases after the kid and the bat. In retrospect slamming a movie co-directed by the late Christopher Reeve as a pet project for his young son (with wife Dana Reeve who died of lung cancer earlier this year providing the voice of Yankee’s mom) seems a tad coldhearted. But unfortunately even with all the heart soul--and apparently lots of time--poured into it Everyone's Hero still comes off as bland and overdone. There’s the same hackneyed dialogue filled with the same feel-good messages (“Have faith in yourself!” “Friends stick together!”) and the same insipid pop tunes peppered throughout. It may have been more interesting if the whole story were told from the baseball’s point of view. How about if ALL the equipment talked--the mitts the bases et. al.--and we saw the game through their eyes? Not bad eh? If only this had been my brain child...
The year is 1914. Milo Thatch (voiced by Michael J. Fox) is a lowly museum cartographer and linguistics expert who knows the whereabouts of Atlantis. He isn't taken seriously however until an eccentric billionaire (voiced by Fraiser's John Mahoney) funds an expedition based on Milo's late grandfather's journal about the lost city. Milo joins a motley group of mercenaries led by Commander Rourke (voiced by James Garner) on a dangerous trip through the ocean where they discover a thriving civilization ruled by the King (voiced by Leonard Nimoy) and his beautiful warrior daughter Princess Kida (voiced by Cree Summer). It's Atlantis and it's been kept alive by a crystal energy hidden deep within the city which thrills Commander Rourke--his evil plan is to steal the crystals. Now it's up to Milo and the others to save the city from certain doom.
Once again Disney has gathered a talented cast to lend their voices to the characters. Fox easily handles the hapless hero Milo and the animators capture Fox's essence especially in Milo's oh-so-familiar hand gestures. Garner's fairly menacing vocal quality in the evil Commander Rourke is equaled only by the majesty of Nimoy's Atlantean King. However it's the team of explorers each with their own special abilities that really make Atlantis fun. There's demolition expert Vinny voiced in a monotone by the hilarious Don Novello; creepy geologist Mole voiced by Corey Burton in a combination of French and Peter Lorre-ish speak; and Cookie the expedition's lard-lovin' cook voiced by the late Jim Varney. Together they represent the collective "sidekick character" Disney films love but this time it's done with a surprising and delightful twist.
The creators of Atlantis decided try a different approach to the Disney animated formula. Instead of the usual hero-must-find-his/her-way-in-the-world-and-get-the-girl/boy directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale went for the pure adrenaline of an action-adventure story paying tribute to the great Disney adventure movies of the '50s. Also conspicuously absent are the songs so common in recent Disney films. Some die-hard Disney fans may not like that but it's actually a refreshing change of pace. The one thing however that detracts from the film slightly is its look. The animators were going for a particular style--merging computer-generated imagery with traditional animation and giving the film a flat dark comic-book look. This works well for some scenes but when the audience gets to Atlantis that lush Disney look we've seen in films like Tarzan and The Lion King needed to be there.