×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Quest for Camelot

Warner Bros. joins the battle against Disney dominance in the realm of animated features with "Quest for Camelot," a lightweight but likable fantasy that offers a playfully feminist twist to Arthurian legends.

With:
Kayley - Jessalyn Gilsig (voice), Andrea Corr (singing) Garrett - Cary Elwes (voice), Bryan White (singing) Ruber - Gary Oldman (voice, singing) Devon - Eric Idle (voice, singing) Cornwall - Don Rickles (voice, singing) Juliana - Jane Seymour (voice), Celine Dion (singing) King Arthur - Pierce Brosnan (voice), Steve Perry (singing) Griffin - Bronson Pinchot (voice) Bladebeak - Jaleel White Lionel - Gabriel Byrne Merlin - Sir John Gielgud

Warner Bros. joins the battle against Disney dominance in the realm of animated features with “Quest for Camelot,” a lightweight but likable fantasy that offers a playfully feminist twist to Arthurian legends. Set to arrive a full month before Disney’s “Mulan” thunders into theaters and with no other high-profile kid-oriented fare on the playing field, the handsomely mounted pic should score respectably mid-range B.O. before hitting the jackpot as a sell-through video title.

Billed as the first fully animated feature produced by Warners, this “Camelot” reduces King Arthur (voiced by Pierce Brosnan, sung by Steve Perry) and Merlin (John Gielgud) to the level of supporting players in order to focus on Kayley (Jessalyn Gilsig/Andrea Corr), a plucky girl who dreams of following her late father as a Knight of the Round Table.

During the prologue, Sir Lionel (Gabriel Byrne), Kayley’s brave father, is killed while defending his king against an attack by a would-be usurper, the wicked Ruber (Gary Oldman). The animation is less than fluid dur-ing these opening scenes, and the pace may try the patience of moppets with short attention spans. But the pace picks up — and the animation becomes more, well, animated — as “Camelot” flash-forwards a few years to show Ruber once again making a bid for King Arthur’s throne.

With the help of a fearsome Griffin (Bronson Pinchot), Ruber manages to snatch Excalibur, Arthur’s legendary magical sword. Griffin accidentally drops the sword in a dark and foreboding forest, but that’s not enough to keep Ruber from launching his plan for an invasion of Camelot. Part of that plan involves the kidnapping of Sir Lionel’s widow, Lady Juliana (Jane Seymour/Celine Dion), and Kayley. Ruber wants to use the pair as a cover for his invading army. But Kayley slips away from her captors and vows to find Excalibur before Camelot is overrun.

Far more substantial than a mere damsel in distress, Kayley is persuasively presented as a heroic and resourceful adventurer who should appeal to both boys and girls in the audience. Gilsig winningly expresses the charac-ter’s fortitude in dialogue, while Corr sells Kayley’s major power-ballad, “On My Father’s Wings,” for all it’s worth.

As she journeys through the haunted forest — a habitat for man-eating plants and fire-breathing dragons — Kayley finds a reluctant ally in Garrett (Cary Elwes/Bryan White), a young man who, despite being blind, knows the lay of the land. (He gets a little help from a seeing-eye hawk.) At first, Garrett grumpily demands to be left alone. But when he discovers that Kayley is the daughter of Sir Lionel, the knight who trained him to fight years earlier, Garrett agrees to help her find Excalibur and avoid Ruber.

For much of “Camelot,” Elwes eloquently conveys the bitterness and self-pitying moodiness of a young man who, before being blinded in a fire, had dreamed of becoming a knight. Elwes is equally convincing as, inevitability, Garrett breaks free of his funk to fall in love with Kayley. As Garrett’s singing voice, White artfully under-scores the character’s emotional extremes with two markedly different renditions of the tune “I Stand All Alone.”

As Ruber, Oldman sounds every bit as menacing as a first-rate cartoon villain should, whether he’s barking orders to his unreliable Griffin (nicely played by Pinchot) or bellowing a melodic ode to his own nastiness. Dion gives a full-throttle rendition of Lady Juliana’s big number, “The Prayer,” that will do a lot to boost CD sound-track sales.

But the most memorable show-stopper and scene-stealer in all of “Camelot” is a two-headed dragon — scaly Siamese twins known as Devon (Eric Idle) and Cornwall (Don Rickles). The duo brings out the best in the screenwriters, who provide the bickering couple with genuinely witty wisecracks that grown-ups may appreciate more than children will. (The dragon dialogue is chock-full of clever allusions to such classic movies as “Taxi Driver” and “Dirty Harry.”) Not to be outdone, songwriters David Foster and Carole Bayer Sager give Devon and Cornwall the pic’s very best tune, the hilarious “If I Didn’t Have You.” Idle and Rickles are smashingly funny; they may have a future together in a possible TV series spin-off.

Ably directed by Frederick Du Chan, “Camelot” doesn’t stray very far from the Disney formula for predictable but crowd-pleasing animated fare. The chief bad guy has a horde of stumbling assistants, most of whom are transformed into mutant warriors by a magical potion. (In homage to the Warner Bros. cartoons of yesteryear, the potion is called — yes, you guessed it — Acme.) There is a colorful supporting character — Bladebeak (Jaleel White), a sort of chicken-hatchet hybrid — who will doubtless claim shelf space alongside mutant-warrior action figures at toy stores everywhere.

Overall, “Quest for Camelot” is a pleasant diversion that should delight pre-teens and amuse their parents. The animation, though not quite up to Disney standards, is impressive enough on its own terms to dazzle the eye and serve the story. Of particular note is a sequence that integrates CGI wizardry with more traditional painted-cel artistry to create a huge stone ogre that likely will haunt the dreams of more impressionable youngsters.

Popular on Variety

Quest for Camelot

(ANIMATED)

Production: A Warner Bros. production. Produced by Dalisa Cooper Cohen. Directed by Frederick Du Chan. Screenplay, Kirk De Micco, William Schifrin, Jacqueline Feather, David Seidler, based on the novel "The King's Damsel" by Vera Chapman.

Crew: Editor, Stanford C. Allen; music, Patrick Doyle; original songs, David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager; production designer, Steve Pilcher; art directors, Carol Kieffer Police, J. Michael Spooner; sound (DTS/SDDS/Dolby digital), Alan Robert Murray, Dave Horton Sr.; supervising animator, Russell Hall; associate producers, Zahra Dowlatabadi, Andre Clavel. Reviewed at Sony State Theater, N.Y., April 25, 1998. MPAA Rating: G. Running time: 85 MIN.

With: Kayley - Jessalyn Gilsig (voice), Andrea Corr (singing) Garrett - Cary Elwes (voice), Bryan White (singing) Ruber - Gary Oldman (voice, singing) Devon - Eric Idle (voice, singing) Cornwall - Don Rickles (voice, singing) Juliana - Jane Seymour (voice), Celine Dion (singing) King Arthur - Pierce Brosnan (voice), Steve Perry (singing) Griffin - Bronson Pinchot (voice) Bladebeak - Jaleel White Lionel - Gabriel Byrne Merlin - Sir John GielgudTechnicolor; editor, Stanford C. Allen; music, Patrick Doyle; original songs, David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager; production designer, Steve Pilcher; art directors, Carol Kieffer Police, J. Michael Spooner; sound (DTS/SDDS/Dolby digital), Alan Robert Murray, Dave Horton Sr.; supervising animator, Russell Hall; associate producers, Zahra Dowlatabadi, Andre Clavel. Reviewed at Sony State Theater, N.Y., April 25, 1998. MPAA Rating: G. Running time: 85 MIN.

More Film

  • In ‘Motherless Brooklyn,’ Edward Norton Takes

    In ‘Motherless Brooklyn,’ Edward Norton Takes on Timeless Power Struggles

    In Edward Norton’s “Motherless Brooklyn,” the ‘50s-set New York noir detective story he produced, directed, wrote and stars in, politics are never far from the surface. But they’re not the obvious parallels to any racist autocrats from New York of modern times, but instead focus on more timeless politics – the way disabled people and [...]

  • 'Joker' Cinematographer Lawrence Sher Wins at

    'Joker' Cinematographer Lawrence Sher Wins at EnergaCamerimage Film Festival

    “Joker” cinematographer Lawrence Sher’s bid, along with director Todd Phillips, to try something “perhaps even a bit artful” won big Saturday in Torun, Poland as he took the top prize at the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival. The Golden Frog for cinematography, along with the audience prize, went to his work filming Joaquin Phoenix in the [...]

  • Roberto Schaefer

    Netflix Image Enhancement Rules Take Cinematographers by Surprise

    A Netflix requirement that cinematographers capture films in HDR, or high dynamic range, has taken many by surprise, filmmakers say, but those at the 27th EnergaCamerimage festival in Poland seem increasingly accepting of the change. DP Roberto Schaefer, whose “Red Sea Diving Resort” screened at the cinematography fest in the historic city of Torun, said [...]

  • Lech Majewski and Josh Hartnett

    Lech Majewski on ‘Valley of the Gods,’ Navajo Mythology, Josh Hartnett, Keir Dullea

    TORUN, Poland – In his latest work, “The Valley of the Gods,” director Lech Majewski explores the ancient mythology of a downtrodden people and the absurd wealth of the world’s richest man in a surreal vision of modern America. The film screened at the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival as part of special showcase honoring Majewski, [...]

  • The Red Sea Diving Resort

    Cinematographer Roberto Schaefer on Gideon Raff's Thriller ‘The Red Sea Diving Resort’

    TORUN, Poland – While Gideon Raff’s Netflix thriller “The Red Sea Diving Resort” shot largely in South Africa and Namibia, the project was a welcomed opportunity for cinematographer Roberto Schaefer due to his own memorable travels through Ethiopia. The film, which screened in the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival’s Contemporary World Cinema section, is loosely based [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content