Reviewed by: Marcus Mann
Disney’s animators have done it again. A genuine blockbuster! Spectacular animation, great music and charming characters highlight this adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic tale.
Quasimodo (the “hunchback”) is a lonely outsider who dreams of leaving the protection of Notre Dame for just one day. He ventures into the city (Paris) during the annual Festival of Fools against the wishes of his master, the self-righteous, evil Judge Frollo. “Topsy-turvy”, the song for the celebration, describes very well the rest of the story as Quasimodo’s world turns upside down. During the celebration, he is crowned “King of the Fools” and finds himself falling instantly in love with the Gypsy dancer Esmeralda. Joy turns quickly to sorrow as the crowd cruelly mocks and rejects him for his misshapen appearance, failing to see the charm which lies below his odd looks.
Back in the safety of the Cathedral, Quasimodo is at first heartbroken to find that Esmeralda is in love with another, yet he ultimately risks everything to bring the two lovers together. In the end, the entire city of Paris owes Quasimodo a great debt as he teaches the people the important lesson of acceptance and love. Paris learns to appreciate the unique values of the outcast Gypsies and the disfigured hunchback.
As Christians, we find this to be an admirable lesson. The Bible teaches that all the people in the world are the miraculous creation of God (in God’s own image) no matter the color of skin or the standard of beauty. Gratefully, Disney’s adaptation of the novel makes the great Cathedral, and it’s priest, the protector and sanctuary of the mistreated; rather than an evil oppressor. Disney erects a clearly evil judge as the villain, making it easy for the entire audience to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys.
The major weakness of this film lies in it’s portrayal of evil judge Follo’s lust for Esmeralda. The scenes which deal with this topic are intense, dark and definitely adult in nature. If indeed this film were intended for younger children (as the toy marketing would indicate) then Disney has sadly missed the mark. This aspect of the movie is the only shadow for an otherwise bright film experience.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is easily the best Disney animation since Beauty and Beast. Older children, teenagers and adults will thrill to the adventures of this likable bell-ringer, but parents may want to preview it before taking their younger kids.