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11/28/17

POCAHONTAS - REVIEW


Disney's Pocahontas was released back in 1995 and it was a relative box-office success despite critics not praising much more than the animation itself. To say that this is a loose adaptation of the Pocahontas real life story would be a gross understatement.

Indeed, Disney's reluctance to approach Native American History in an honest way prompted quite a bit of criticism since the film's release, and rightly so. A lot of liberties are taken with what the film calls the "legend" of Pocahontas from the unlikely romance between Pocahontas (Irene Bedard) and British colonist Captain John Smith (Mel Gibson), the former being around 10 years-old in reality at that point, to the relationship between Native Americans and the English settlers. The film constantly romanticises otherwise not-so-pleasant events and replaces the more potentially uncomfortable conversations with cutesy cartoon animals and big Broadway-style musical numbers. A magical fantasy element is added to the story as multicoloured leaves float around Pocahontas whenever she's looking intensely to the horizon, she interacts with a talking tree called Grandmother Willow and the language barrier is broken purely by magic. Maybe Disney meant well with this take on the Pocahontas story but it definitely comes off as clumsy, at best.

Admittedly, the animation is solid throughout with lots of vibrant colours and characters moving around in a realistic, if slightly stiff, way. The music is also decent but, after the likes of The Lion King and Aladdin, the songs themselves are surprisingly forgettable, not to mention they lack subtlety in the lyrics department. Plus it's highly unlikely that John Smith and Pocahontas spent their time frolicking in the woods like children. The writing is easily the film's biggest shortcoming: none of the characters are fleshed-out enough to be believable or likeable, the Native Americans and colonists are somehow put on equal ground at times and the scenes with the funny animals stick out like a sore thumb. Funnily enough, the latter are probably the best part of the film and it's quite clear that Disney was more comfortable telling the story of raccoon Meeko, hummingbird Flit and pet pug Percy than Pocahontas'. Tonally, this movie is all over the place and it certainly hasn't aged well, though it was always a rather weak effort, let's be honest.

A completely serious and faithful telling of the real life story of Pocahontas would have been preferable to what we got, or a goofy cartoon about a posh pug becoming friends with a raccoon, even. If this movie proves one thing, it's that you can't have it both ways.

Regrettable mishit.

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