QUEST FOR CAMELOT

G
Reviews

Quest for Camelot is a perfectly mediocre, Disneyfied angle on the Arthurian legend. The fact that the Disney corporation had nothing to do with its production is purely incidental. With its bland/heroic lead character looking for self-actualization, its comic sidekicks, egomaniacal villain, and love story on the side, the only thing separating it from typical mouse fare is its consistent, strenuous dedication to mediocrity. As predictable and formulaic as Disney animated films are, they're usually possessed by individual elements that reach the sublime, whether it be a great song or two, an eye-popping visual sequence or two, a funny character or two, a touching relationship or two, or multiples of the above. Quest has none of the above, and while it will most likely be watchable for kids, barely keeping their attention for its 80-minute running time, they probably won't be clamoring to get the video.

Quest tells the story of Kayley (voice by Jessalyn Gilsig, singing by Andrea Corr), the daughter of a knight of the round table who strives to someday become a knight herself. This desire intensifies when her father is killed trying to protect King Arthur (Pierce Brosnan) from the murderously evil knight Ruber (voiced by bad guy du jour Gary Oldman). Years later, Ruber plans on conquering Camelot by stealing the sword Excalibur from Arthur, and using a potion that turns animals and people into an army of walking medieval weapons. He kidnaps Kayley's mother (Jane Seymour) as a means of gaining access into the castle, where he will murder Arthur with the legendary sword. The monkey wrench in the plan comes when Excalibur is lost in a forbidding forest, and Kayley takes it upon herself, with the help of blind, physically adept and dashing Garret (voice by Cary Elwes, singing by Bryan White), whom she meets in the forest, to retrieve the sword before Ruber can.

Making up the bulk of the plot, this quest for Excalibur in the forest meanders as much as the characters do. Quest credits four writers with the screenplay, a number high enough to add up to a too-many-cooks liability. When the story isn't bogged down in a stretched-out forest trek, it's choppy and spastic, with wild story gyrations coming every which way. It's as if each of the writers' own separate ideas were hastily grafted together into a whole, giving the story a bit of a flow problem.

Flow wouldn't be a fatal flaw if the film had one of those exceptional elements to pass the time. The animation is relatively flat and narrow-sighted in scope, and its use of computer-generated imagery, which has now become obligatory for animated features, is nothing but obligatory here; the daunting moss-covered stone creature who does little more than sleep is impressive to look at, but it has nothing to do, has no bearing on the story, and visually sticks out like a sore thumb. The songs, written and composed by David Foster and Carole Bayer Sager, are uniformly forgettable. The characters follow suit. Oldman's hissing villain has an unusually small amount of screen time, which deprives the character of the chance to display any sort of interesting personality. Kayley is a rather empty lead; besides the fact that she has little personality, which is true of the leads of most animated features, her hopes and dreams seem tacked on and are not integrated into the story, which is not true of most Disney efforts. And the film blows its most promising potential for personality in its two-headed dragon comic sidekick, voiced by Eric Idle and Don Rickles. With Rickles, the king of the insult, and Idle, dry British ex-Monty Pythoner, you'd expect some hilarious exchanges between two characters placed in a position where they're inherently at odds. Instead, the talents of the actors are pretty much ignored, in favor of warmed-over bits reminiscent of Robin Williams' genie character, sans energy.

Quest for Camelot is the first fully animated feature film to come out of Warner Bros., where energy and animation have always been synonymous terms. It's the home of Bugs, Daffy, Porky Pig, Yosemite Sam, etc. etc. etc. It's a pretty safe bet the studio won't ever be thought of as the home of Kayley or Ruber.

--David Luty