Quest for Camelot

1998, G, 88 min. Directed by Frederik Du Chau. Starring Jessalyn Gilsig, Andrea Corr, Cary Elwes, Gabriel Byrne, Gary Oldman, Bronson Pinchot, Pierce Brosnan, Steve Perry, Eric Idle, Don Rickles, John Gielgud, Jane Seymour, Celine Dion, Jaleel White.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 15, 1998

This may be misconstrued as a comment best belonging to the Department of Damning With Faint Praise, but it must be said nevertheless: Quest for Camelot is so much better than its trailers make it appear. That is to say, Quest for Camelot is not awful -- not by a long shot. Come expecting the lackluster animation and wimpy storyline that are trumpeted by the trailers and you will leave most pleasantly surprised. You will hardly be bowled over, mind you, but parents who've been dreading tagging along with their youngsters to see this new animated feature need not fear the experience. The new Warner Bros. animation unit touts Quest for Camelot as its first fully animated feature, following up 1996's half-jock/half-cartoon smash Space Jam. Wisely, Warner's has released Quest a full month before the highly anticipated debut of Disney's new animated feature Mulan. And for its part, Disney has decided to do the decent thing and not bogart the market like it did last Thanksgiving when it re-released The Little Mermaid in time to directly compete with the debut of Anastasia, the first animated feature from the new Fox unit. Like Anastasia, The Little Mermaid, and Pocahontas, Quest for Camelot seems designed to reel in the distaff market with its central female protagonist and contemporary feminist overtones. Of course, it's only the contemporary layering of a feminist perspective that will permit the storyline of a medieval girl who dreams of joining King Arthur's Round Table and becoming a knight who recovers Excalibur, the King's stolen sword, and thereby restoring peace to the land. On top of that, this ahistorical girl who actualizes her dreams of derring-do is assisted by a blind boy who has also hoped to become a knight until injury quashed his grand dreams. Although the film starts off a bit slowly, things pick up as the two heroes venture into the mysterious forest in search of Excalibur. There the images start twisting themselves into wacky animated fun. But still, events are interrupted by way too much singing, a prospect not helped much by the caliber of the instantly forgettable tunes composed by David Foster and Carole Bayer Sager. The vocal characterizations are all top-notch however, and the comical two-headed dragon voiced by Eric Idle and Don Rickles seems to be the character destined for breakout success. The film is also packed with the kind of knowing cultural references that only adults will understand (i.e., signature lines from such films as Taxi Driver, Dirty Harry, and Apollo 13), but they seem oddly out of place in this medieval setting. Nevertheless, there's something for everyone in this new Arthurian legend.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Quest for Camelot, Frederik Du Chau, Jessalyn Gilsig, Andrea Corr, Cary Elwes, Gabriel Byrne, Gary Oldman, Bronson Pinchot, Pierce Brosnan, Steve Perry, Eric Idle, Don Rickles, John Gielgud, Jane Seymour, Celine Dion, Jaleel White

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