Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Planet has already been adapted for the screen over a dozen times, starring everyone from Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff, to Orson Welles and Charlton Heston, to Kermit the Frog and the guy who played Mel on Alice. Now it's back again, but with two special updates: The story has been transplanted to the space age, and it's appearing in the super-duper IMAX format, in addition to regular theatres (this is actually the first time the same film has been released in both 35mm and 70mm formats simultaneously). Neither modernizations should have you or your kids clamoring to see Planet, but it provides safe and decent family entertainment for parents too scared of this week's other animated film (Adam Sandler's Eight Crazy Nights).
Planet takes place in the distant future on a non-Earth-type world. Like the unpopular, but very entertaining Fox television show Firefly, the characters act like they're living around the beginning of the 20th century, even though they fly around in spaceships and stuff. Our protagonist is young Jim Hawkins, who we meet as he reads a 3D book about a bloodthirsty pirate named Captain Flint and his hidden plunder, which is referred to as "the loot of a thousand worlds." Flash forward 12 years, where Jim (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is now an earring-wearing, probation-enjoying, rat-tailed, windsurfing, skateboarding, free-falling kind of kid with thick eyebrows like Denise Richards (but not bushy, like Andy Rooney). His father abandoned the family, leaving Jim's miserable mom to work a thankless job at a local restaurant. Jim doesn't care about getting into trouble because he thinks his future is shot.
Enter Billy Bones, who crashes near Jim's house and, before dropping dead, gives the kid an orb and warns him about a dangerous cyborg who has been trying to relieve him of it. The orb, of course, reveals the location of the planet where Captain Flint hid his booty so many years ago. Together with the financial help of a nerdy astrophysicist/restaurant patron named Dr. Doppler (David Hyde Pierce), Jim is able to commission a ship to fly to the titular treasure planet. While the foxy captain (Emma Thompson) and Thing lookalike first mate (Babe narrator Roscoe Lee Browne) seem like a professional duo, the rest of the crew seems a bit shady. Especially the one-eyed, one-handed, one-legged cook (Brian Murphy), who goes by the name John Silver (naturally, his seafood preparation is quite dazzling).
What follows is a typical trip that resembles The Goonies as much as it does Stevenson's novel (dig the name of the ship: the RLS Legacy-a tribute to the author). Well, "typical" other than the Silver character-he's either the best-developed Disney villain of all-time, or a total copout because he never gets punished for any of the bad things he does. Some of the visuals are stunning, like when what we think is just a regular old crescent moon turns out to be a spaceport, and a supernova-turned-black-hole. But when compared to a Shrek or a Monsters, Inc., Planet just doesn't cut it.
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