After successfully launching its feature animation division with 1996's "Space Jam", Warner Bros. has taken the fully animated feature plunge with "Quest for Camelot", an obvious effort to take on you-know-who at its own unrivaled game.
But while it has the requisite enchanted vistas, wide-eyed protagonists, a snarling villain, comic animal cut-ups and sweeping ballads, the picture emerges as an uninspired facsimile.
Slavishly formulaic, there's a mechanical "by committee" feel to the proceedings, which sorely lack any spark of invention. The result may still make for a harmless, mild distraction for the kiddies, but this quest won't be sufficiently realized until it reaches the video shelves.
A sequel of sorts to "The Sword in the Stone", the story concerns young Kayley (voiced by Jessalyn Gilsig
, sung by Andrea Corr
), the spirited daughter of a knight of the Round Table (Gabriel Byrne
) who wants to be just like her dad when she grows up -- even though he's killed defending King Arthur Pierce
Brosnan) from the evil, power-hungry Ruber (Gary Oldman).
Soon, Kayley is all grown up and gets a chance to save Camelot when Ruber's trusty Griffin (Bronson Pinchot
) snatches Excalibur (miraculously, the magical sword doesn't have its own personality) and kidnaps her mom (Jane Seymour).
Setting out on her quest for Excalibur, Kayley soon joins forces with Garrett, a blind loner (voiced by Cary Elwes
, sung by Bryan White), and Devon & Cornwall, a bickering, two-headed dragon (Eric Idle
, Don Rickles
). Ultimately, the day is saved.
Based on "The King's Damosel" by British author Vera Chapman
, a pioneer in the feminist Arthurian fantasy genre, "Quest for Camelot" is big on exposition at the expense of bland characterization. Even Devon & Cornwall, while entertaining, are all-too-reminiscent of a scene-stealing animated feature twosome whose credo was "Hakuna Matata".
At least the voicework is rich, with colorful contributions from all concerned, also including John Gielgud
as Merlin and Jaleel White
as Bladebeak, a transformed chicken.
The animation, meanwhile, is serviceable but falls short of the state-of-the-art mark. The computer-generated sequences, while often impressive, never blend in satisfyingly with the traditional stuff.
On the musical front, composer Patrick Doyle, a frequent Kenneth Branagh
collaborator, has crafted an evocative, soul-stirring score (credit those "Lion King-esque" drumbeats) that doesn't exactly gibe with the generic David Foster-Carole Bayer Sager ballads that are less concerned with being character-specific than being intended hits for the likes of LeAnn Rimes and Celine Dion -- both of whom happen to sing on the soundtrack.
QUEST FOR CAMELOT
Director:Frederik Du Chau
Producer:Dalisa Cooper Cohen
Screenwriters:Kirk De Micco, William Schifrin
, Jacqueline Feather
& David Seidler
Based on the novel "The King's Damosel" by:Vera Chapman Production designer:Steve Pilcher
Editor:Stanford C. Allen
Original songs:David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager
Kayley (speaking):Jessalyn Gilsig
Kayley (singing):Andrea Corr
Garrett (speaking):Cary Elwes
Garrett (singing):Bryan White
Lady Juliana:Jane Seymour
King Arthur:Pierce Brosnan
Merlin: John Gielgud
The Griffin:Bronson Pinchot
Sir Lionel:Gabriel Byrne
Running time -- 80 minutes
MPAA rating: G