Directed by Reinhard Klooss. Cast: Kellan Lutz, Spencer Locke, Trevor St. John, Les Bubb, Jaime Ray Newman, Mark Deklin, Aaron Kissiov, Robert Capron, Anton Zetterholm, Brian Bloom, Brian Huskey, Cecily Fay, Jo Osmond, Craig Garner, Lynn Robertson Bruce. 2014 94 minutes Rated: (for violence, some frightening images, mild language and thematic elements).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, August 4, 2014.
The arrival of another animated adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1912 novel "Tarzan of the Apes" sounds extraneous. Already turned into a superior Disney feature fifteen years earlier, the tried-and-true story is once again largely adhered to, albeit with a surge of sci-fi inspiration that crosses unashamedly into "Avatar" territory. When a plane crash takes the lives of his parents, explorer father John Greystoke (Mark Deklin) and mother Alice (Jaime Ray Newman), 4-year-old J.J. (Craig Garner) is left stranded alone in the remote jungle. Raised by protective ape mother Kala, who has just lost her own infant, J.J. grows into the vine-swinging, loincloth-wearing Tarzan (Kellan Lutz). When William Clayton (Trevor St. John), new CEO of the late John's Greystoke Energies, detects an emergency beacon from the helicopter's crash site, he sees it as his chance to finally capitalize on the yet-undiscovered places and living creatures hailing from the depth of the planet's history. When these seamy intentions threaten Tarzan's home, he and human conservationist Jane Porter (Spencer Locke) team up to stop Clayton and his army of armed mercenaries.
"Tarzan" opens 70 million years ago as a meteor falls to Earth and wipes out the dinosaur population. Moving ahead to the 21st century, the film introduces the ill-fated John Greystoke and his family as they search for the ancient meteor, its legendary source of power a possible solution to the world's mounting energy crisis. When Tarzan loses his parents and is raised among the primates of the jungle, the film proceeds to hit all of the touchstones of Burroughs' original narrative without fully conveying the levity of Tarzan's situation or the joy of his freedom. As far as Tarzans go, this one something of a blank slate, lacking personality or the dramatic depth of a man whose feral life has been born from tragedy. His relationship with the courageous, free-thinking Jane is merely adequate, the two of them not sharing the growing bond one expects from them. If his treatment of the characters is nothing special, director Reinhard Klooss has spearheaded an overall world of scope and wonder, the exotic locales given a fantastical shade of whimsy. Drinking in the visuals might be enough for some, but the movie falters when it comes to its humans (it doesn't help that the stop-motion and computer animation is notably less sophisticated when it comes to the people than that of the animals and locations). There is much to admire in "Tarzan," but no lingering emotional through-line to this particular telling.