Director: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
Running Time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
A deformed child named Quasimodo (Tom Hulce) is raised by the sinister judge Frollo (Tony Jay), who killed Quasimodo's mother when he was a baby. He is forced to live in the tower of Notre Dame where he rings the bells day in and day out. He is forbidden to leave the tower, but during the annual Festival of Fools, Quasimodo defies Frollo and ventures outside. During the festival, after being crowned the king of fools, Quasimodo is subjected to humiliation and is pelted with fruits by some of the town guards. Frollo wants this to continue in order to teach Quasimodo a lesson. However, when a gypsy named Esmeralda (Demi Moore) shows pity on him and frees him, Frollo orders her arrested and starts to turn Paris upside down and plunges it into chaos in order to find her.
Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is an adaptation of the classic tragic tale. As a Disney film, the subject is lightened up a lot from its original telling in order to make it more appealing and palatable to a younger audience. Talking gargoyles, voiced by Jason Alexander, Charles Kimbrough, and Mary Wickes, are added to include some comedic relief, and the overall tone of the film, though still quite grim, is much more light than the original tragic story. This is still extremely dark for a Disney film, one of the darkest we'd say. The way it is animated and the way some of the scenes transition make it feel almost like a stage play. The music sounds like what you might find in a classic Broadway musical. Speaking of the music, there are some really excellent, passionate songs in the film. Not all of them are great and most of them are not terribly memorable like other Disney films, but the vast majority are quite well done. We really like the opening number "The Bells of Notre Dame," performed by Paul Kandel as Clopin, "Out There," performed by Tom Hulce as Quasimodo, and "Hell Fire," sung by Tony Jay as Frollo, a song so dark, it almost wound up on the cutting room floor. There are other musical numbers in the film, but these three, as well as the overall musical score, really rises above the rest. Other people lending their voice talents are Kevin Kline, who voices Phoebus, and Demi Moore, who provides the speaking voice for Esmeralda, though the singing is done by Heidi Mollenhauer.
Neither one of us really grew up with "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" being part of our childhood viewing like so many other Disney classics. It never seems to be a feature that was ever held in high regard, despite its rather high ratings from critics and viewers alike. Now seeing it as adults, however, we truly do appreciate this film and feel it is extremely underrated. It seems to be the type of movie you can understand better and empathize with more with as an adult, especially when the darker subject matters come into play. It's definitely a film to revisit, even if you don't have nostalgic memories about it.
My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 73%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!