Friday, December 24, 2010

FMF: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Rated G  - 91 min -  Released 1996

For those of you unfamiliar with the story  (at least in the movie) The Hunchback tells the tale of a young disfigured man confined to a bell tower by the evil Judge Frollo.  Quasimodo, the hunchback, yearns to break free and essentially live without fear amongst everyone else in the world.  Quasimodo gets the help of a beautiful gypsy girl named Esmeralda, who is an outcast herself, and the two become an unlikely duo with one passion: break free from Frollo's oppression.

I've never read the classic novel, so I'm not about to compare this movie with the book, but the movie standing alone is absolutely excellent.  There is adventure, love, tension, humor, and a great array of songs.  We all know that most Disney movies include some songs, but this film is jam packed.  My husband and I joke that this movie can easily be translated to a Broadway musical targeted towards adults.   The humor in this movie mainly comes from the three stone gargoyles that are perched on the bell tower with Quasimodo.  You may recognize Jason Alexander as the voice over for the portly gargoyle named Hugo.  And just as with everything else Alexander embraces, he's hysterical.

The love story in this film is rather sad because you want Quasimodo to get the girl, but in the end looks win out: as seen when Esmeralda falls for her knight in shining armor, Phoebus. This is especially upsetting because Quasimodo is pure in heart throughout the movie, as opposed to the charming Phoebus, who eventually does indeed get the girl. But of course like most American movies the ending is cheerful and you don't feel quite as bad for Quasimodo because he does win the hearts of the citizens of Notre Dame.  Furthermore, the thematic development throughout the story is equally compelling.  The themes explore the realms of the semantics of monstrosity, man's inner conflict with his conscience, and man's conflict with society.

Now as for questionable content (here is where the tension in the story lies), there is one song in particular that sticks out in my mind because it clearly deals with lust of the flesh and is somewhat frightening to watch.  The song is sung by Judge Frollo (played by Tony Jay who does a fantastic job), who  is evil through and through and is just plain scary to look at.  He sings "Hell Fire" which goes "hell fire, hell fire, choose me or you will burn!" It is based on his  inner struggle regarding his passion for Esmeralda.  He says if she does not choose to be with him then he will burn her at the stake; I'd say that's pretty creepy and would call for some major marriage counseling or psychotherapy.  In the midst of that song the flames start surrounding him like he is in the depths of hell itself.  And his hideous countenance is still burned on my cerebral cortex--not awesome; well it is because it was emotionally appealing, but this scene would certainly be scary for children under six.

Due to storyline, the song "Hell Fire", and Frollo's creepy face, I'd say an appropriate viewing age for The Hunchback would be 6 years old

Overall Rating: 9.5 out 10

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