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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Pocahontas

Starring: Irene Bedard, Mel Gibson
Director: Eric Goldberg
Rated: G
RunTime: 81 Minutes
Release Date: June 1995
Genres: Animation, Family, Kids

*Also starring: Christian Bale, Russell Means, Linda Hunt, Judy Kuhn, David Ogden Stiers, Joe Baker, Billy Connolly

Review by Andrew Hicks
2 stars out of 4

I guess I should point off first of all that I didn't actually pay to see this movie. I had nothing to do and it was on the dorm's cable network so I decided to give it a whirl, with the full knowledge that this would be the most mediocre Disney cartoon since about 1946. In the tradition of all the history-bending Disney tales, POCAHONTAS takes pains to present the most politically-correct portrayal of Native Americans (can't even call 'em Indians anymore!) despite having a heroine that looks like Cindy Crawford and ignoring nearly all historical facts. For starters, the real Pocahontas was around twelve when she met John Smith but I don't see any "Pedophelia" song and dance number.

As the story opens, Pocahontas is out singing to the animals and talking to the old woman tree spirit when the drunken, corrupt Englishmen arrive in the new world, led by the round Governor Ratcliffe (as for the way his character looks and talks, remember the Sheriff of Nottingham from ROBIN HOOD?) and John Smith. Here we get more factual White-Out applied to history. Smith didn't come over until the third Jamestown excursion, after all the original colonists were dying of dysentery (again, a song-and-dance number they left out), and he sure didn't look like Mel Gibson. Imagine the pairing of John Goodman and Christina Ricci and there's your real-life romance.

We instantly are forced to side with the Ind... er, Native Americans upon seeing the rudeness of the settlers, who immediately dig up all the earth in search of gold. The natives don't take well to this intrusion, attacking once or twice. Ratcliffe asks what possible motive the "savages" would have for attacking God's people, to his effeminate servant's response, "Let's see, we stole their land, cut down their trees and dug up their earth."

Alright, dammit! All us white guys know it was wrong to steal the land away from the Indians and force them into an existence of selling Navajo blankets on the side of the road, but I refuse to feel guilty about it. And if the Disney people want to make us all feel guilt about it, I don't think the proper medium is a cheery movie where the trees talk and everyone breaks into song at the drop of a tribal headdress. Maybe another black-and-white three hour epic detailing every minute of the inhumanity and suffering, but not a G-rated movie where a raccoon and a dog playfully fight over food in every other scene.

So Pocahontas investigates the new visitors and meets Smith, who turns out to be a Not-Bad White Guy (the only one in the movie). After the customary song about how narrow-minded and self-centered the whiteys are for not realizing the trees do actually talk, the two end up falling in love. It's a match made in the pit of hell. The Indians are mad at her for befriending the enemy, not to mention the fact that she's already engaged to one of her own people ("But he's so... serious," Pocahontas claims in her 17th century valley girl voice. Welcome to Jamestown, 90210.), and Smith's friends are also upset he's wasting his superior Anglo self on the savage girl, even if she does look like this month's centerfold.

I really don't know what to say about this one. PC-HONTAS annoyed me most of the time with its constant sensitivity issues and screwing around with history. Nowhere is that more evident than the happy ending, where the colonists realize the Indians are human after all and befriend them. Um, when did that one happen? Was it somewhere along that whole Trail of Tears thing when the Americans massacred 30,000 of them? Besides that, it's probably the least entertaining Disney animated feature in a long time. The songs are substandard and there are way too many of them. If you can overlook that and can control the vomit reflex every time we get a speech about ethnic intolerance and the stealing of land, maybe you'll be entertained by it. I wasn't.

Copyright 1996 Andrew Hicks

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