Pocahontas

on June 16, 1995 by Christine James
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   "Pocahontas" is typical Disney fare, in that the studio can't seem to help but revert to the formula of star-crossed lovers who must overcome adversity, sing with well-trained voices about the adversity, and have anthropomorphized animal friends try to help them escape their troubles so they finally can be together. Based on the true story of the Powhatan Indian maiden Pocahontas who in 1607 saved the life of English sea captain John Smith, our heroine is depicted as a Native American supermodel, with exaggeratedly high cheekbones, square jawline, freakishly long neck, a head of hair in which she could hide her whole tribe, two mysterious floating nostrils with no perceivable nose, and lips that look as though they had been injected with a double-dose of collagen and then were stung by bees. The hero is an angular, muscle-bound hunk with long blonde locks, Paul Bunyan shoulders and an Audrey Hepburn waist.
   Although Disney has long been criticized for their unrealistically idealized physical renderings, the animators can't be faulted for wanting to portray their protagonists as attractive; after all, films like "Great Personality and the Beast" or "Sleeping Plain Jane" probably wouldn't do very well at the boxoffice. This film does plumb a few more depths, tackling (though didactically) issues like racism and making Pocahontas the most strongly independent female lead in any Disney animated film to date. Certain plot devices, such as the way in which Pocahontas and John overcome the language barrier by magic, smack of a cop-out, and the obligatory critter pals are contrivedly cute to the point of distraction. Still, there is something to be said for the tried and true; "Pocahontas" is entertaining, and kids will giggle delightedly in all the right places and ensure that every home in America will have at least one Meeko the Raccoon doll before season's end.    Voices by Irene Bedard, Mel Gibson, David Ogden Stiers and Linda Hunt. Directed by Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg. Written by Carl Binder, Susannah Grant and Philip LaZebnik. Produced by James Pentecost. A Buena Vista release. Animated. Rated G. Running time: 81 min.
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