½*/**** Image A Sound B Extras D
written by Bill Motz & Bob Roth and Mirith J. Colao and John Behnke & Rob Humphrey & Jim Peterson and Jess Winfield
directed by Steve Loter
by Walter Chaw Like most other Disney direct-to-video sequels, Tarzan & Jane was poorly scripted, looped in a tin can, and abominably animated. It's not even up to the standard of a cheap Saturday-morning cartoon--we're talking Nintendo64 here. The second Disney foray into the realm of everyone's favourite late-Victorian bestiality fantasy, Tarzan & Jane takes a page out of the surreally bad Cinderella II by presenting an anthology format that breaks up the plotting responsibilities into stultifying and manageable chunks. Its framing story something to do with the approach of the odd couple's first year anniversary, the wise-cracking duo of gorilla Turk and elephant Tantor remind Jane of the tumult of T & J's common-law existence.
Aside from the suspicious narrative similarities, Tarzan & Jane also resembles Cinderella II in its open and hateful misogyny. When a group of three of Jane's finishing school alumna appear in the wilderness in search of their classmate (lost to the throes of jungle fever, natch), the film takes an astonishingly inappropriate turn as the buxom, corseted quartet traipse around in the static expanse pursued by sexual panthers and mourning their ruined shoes until Tarzan saves the day to a chorus of lustful titters ("Oh, Tarzan...you're so...so very...so very strong"). Confused about this fascistic turn of events, Tarzan & Jane turns its eyes to tree-hugging with a tale of a pair of pompous vulcanologists with larcenous intentions. As those intentions show themselves to be diamonds, Disney's yen for the violent restoration of a prehistoric patriarchal order shows itself in Tarzan's quest to get Jane a diamond for a proper "British" wedding.
To finish the re-education of Ms. Jane Porter, Tarzan & Jane introduces an old ex-boyfriend of Jane's who turns out to be a double agent, thus invalidating Jane's judgment and intelligence while punishing her for awakening Tarzan's sexual jealousy and thus disturbing the societal order. The film, in other words, is structured around a woman trying to do right by her man, who is reminded of the time she was robbed of her dignity; the time her societally unacceptable relationship is redressed by her mate; and the time she was robbed of her dignity again. Consider very carefully the message of this disturbing little trinket and the more glaring technical problems of the piece (from the animation to the lack of any real voice talent--April Winchell in place of Rosie O'Donnell is a particularly surprising drop-off given the excrescence of O'Donnell) pale in comparison. Just when things seem like they couldn't get any worse, a couple of songs by Phil Collins and Mandy Moore remind just how deep the bottom can be.
Disney DVD presents Tarzan & Jane in a crisp 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation that ironically highlights the dullness of the animation. Backgrounds are reused and flat and an early scene featuring a pair of evil panthers actually looks like the cartoon equivalent of rear-projection and two-dimensional puppets. It's difficult to imagine that any but the youngest of children would enjoy this film without a cocked eyebrow. (At least by the end of it, if your kids haven't learned discretion, they'll have learned gender roles circa 1919.) A spacious Dolby 5.1. audio mix is underused save for a volcano escape in the second segment that gives the 0.1 channel a nice rumbly workout.
Special features include a "Build Your Own Treehouse" game that is a slow-loading trial-and-error exercise in "no one is going to play this," and a "Build Your Own Adventure" game that is a series of rough stills narrated in an indescribably ingratiating singsong by Jim Cummings, which allow one to "choose" where the adventure will go next. Though it sort of reminded me of the old "Choose Your Own Adventure" books I used to buy for seventy-five cents, the execution is so lame that, again, I can't imagine any but the youngest children getting much of a charge out of it. A video for Mandy Moore's "Singing to the Song of Life" is a series of clips from the film intercut with an interview with Moore, underscored by the pristine popster's insipid pop stylings. It's short and casual pedophiles hoping for a peek will be disappointed by the complete lack of ogle-worthy material herein. Disney DVD's Tarzan & Jane completes with trailers for Treasure Planet, The Rookie, Mickey's House of Villains,Monsters, Inc., Beauty and the Beast SE, Rolie Polie Olie: the Great Defender of Fun, Schoolhouse Rock, 101 Dalmatians 2 (not to be confused with 102 Dalmatians), and Teamo Supremo. Originally published: August 21, 2002.