Archive for March 4, 2009

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Posted in Comedy, Disney, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2009 by Mystery Man


The movie opens in 1482 Paris with Clopin (Paul Kandel), a gypsy puppeteer, telling a group of children the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame (“The Bells of Notre Dame”): One night, four gypsies attempted to Enter Paris but were stopped by Judge Claude Frollo (Tony Jay), the Minister of Justice. One gypsy woman who was carrying a bundle attempted to flee and Frollo pursued, thinking that she was carrying stolen goods. Chasing her to Notre Dame, Frollo snatches the bundle from her and kicks her, causing her to fall and hit her head against the stone steps of the cathedral. Frollo discovers that the bundle is a deformed baby and attempts to drown it in a well, but is stopped by the Archdeacon (David Ogden Stiers), who tells him to care for the child as repentance for killing an innocent woman. He agrees, on condition that the child will live in the cathedral. Frollo names the baby Quasimodo, meaning “half-formed”.

Twenty years later, Quasimodo (Tom Hulce) is shown to be the bellringer of Notre Dame. Frollo tells Quasimodo to never leave the bell tower because the people in the city will mistreat him because of his ugliness. Frollo has also lied about Quasimodo’s mother, saying that he took Quasimodo in when his mother abandoned him. Nevertheless, after Frollo departs following a visit, Quasimodo dreams of spending a day out in the world (“Out There”). Quasimodo’s gargoyle friends (Hugo (Jason Alexander), Victor (Charles Kimbrough), and Laverne (Mary Wickes)) convince him to sneak out of the cathedral, given that it was the annual Feast of Fools and everyone is in costume.

Frollo and his new captain of the guard, Phoebus (Kevin Kline), arrive to oversee the festival as Quasimodo tries to keep himself from being seen (“Topsy Turvy”). When the time comes to crown the ugliest member of the crowd as the “King of Fools”, Esmeralda (Demi Moore) drags Quasimodo onto the stage, thinking that his face is a mask. Quasimodo is crowned the King of Fools and is initially met with applause; however, the crowd turns on Quasimodo, tying him down to a wooden turntable and pelting him with produce after one of Frollo’s Guards throws a Tomato at him. Phoebus, not liking the cruelty asks permission to put a stop to it, but Frollo orders him to hold back. Esmeralda frees Quasimodo and Frollo orders her arrested for helping the hunchback. Esmeralda uses illusory tricks to disappear, and Frollo accuses her of witchcraft. After Quasimodo heads back to the cathedral, humiliated Esmeralda and her Goat Djali head in disguised as an old man.

She is caught in the cathedral, but Phoebus saves her by saying she claimed Sanctuary. The archdeacon then commands Frollo to leave out of respect for the church. Frollo leaves, warning Esmeralda that she will be arrested if she leaves the cathedral. Esmeralda, though thinking herself unworthy to offer a prayer, prays for God to protect her people and the other outcasts (“God Help the Outcasts”). Quasimodo shows her the bell tower and becomes even more infatuated with her and helps her escape. In gratitude for his kindness, she gives him a necklace with a map of Paris, with points representing Notre Dame and the Court of Miracles, the gypsy hideout. With her on his mind, he returns to his desk and carves a new figurine in the shape of Esmeralda (“Heaven’s Light”). Meanwhile, Frollo is disturbed by his own lust for Esmeralda and fears eternal damnation as a consequence (“Hellfire”).

The next day, Frollo leads a search for gypsies, burning down houses and buildings. Phoebus eventually refuses to obey Frollo’s orders and Frollo attempts to have him arrested. Phoebus steals Frollo’s horse and escapes, but is shot with an arrow as he is crossing a bridge, causing him to fall into the river below. After Quasimodo is convinced by the gargoyles that Esmeralda is romantically interested in him (“A Guy Like You”), Esmeralda brings an injured Phoebus to the bell tower, and Quasimodo sees them kiss.

Frollo returns to the cathedral just as Esmeralda leaves, and Quasimodo hides Phoebus under a table. Frollo soon notices the figurine of Esmeralda, and realizes that Quasimodo was the one who helped her escape. Frollo then tells Quasimodo of his plans to attack the Court of Miracles “at dawn with a thousand men.” After Frollo leaves, Phoebus and Quasimodo decide to work together to warn the gypsies. They manage to find the Court of Miracles by the necklace Esmeralda gave to Quasimodo, but upon arriving they are captured by Clopin and his men. Mistaking them for spies, the gypsies sentence them to death by hanging (“The Court of Miracles”). They are saved by Esmeralda and they warn them of Frollo, but Frollo and his soldiers arrive to arrest all of them, Frollo reveals that he had bluffed and had followed Quasimodo to the Court of Miracles.

The next day Frollo prepares to burn Esmeralda at the stake in front of the cathedral. Quasimodo is chained up in the bell tower, but his rage upon seeing Esmeralda about to be burned enables him to break free. He rescues Esmeralda and carries her back to the cathedral, where he claims sanctuary. Frollo orders his men to break into Notre Dame, as Phoebus escapes his prison carrige he incites the crowd to revolt and they free the gypsies who help. Quasimodo also pours molten copper from above to drive the guards back, but Frollo manages to break into the cathedral, where he finds Quasimodo weeping over the unconscious Esmeralda thinking she has died. Frollo attempts to stab Quasimodo, but Quasimodo manages to seize the weapon and throw Frollo to the ground. In his rage, Quasimodo very nearly kills Frollo, but is distracted when Esmeralda wakes up. Frollo brandishes a sword, and chases them to the balconies, where he and Quasimodo begin to fight.

During the battle, Frollo reveals that Quasimodo’s mother had died trying to save his life. Quasimodo falls, but manages to pull Frollo down. Esmeralda catches hold of Quasimodo’s arm as Quasimodo loses consciousness. Frollo scrambles atop one of the (inanimate) gargoyles and raises his sword in preparation to strike at Quasimodo and Esmeralda, but the gargoyle he is standing on begins to crumble, causing him to lose his footing and plummet to his death below (briefly before the gargoyle breaks, it seems to come to life, just like Victor, Hugo, and Laverne, in order to growl at Frollo, hinting at the possibility that all of the gargoyles are living).

Esmeralda loses her grip on Quasimodo, but he is caught by Phoebus on a balcony below. Quasimodo then shows his acceptance of Esmeralda and Phoebus’s relationship. The couple then emerges from the cathedral, and Esmeralda leads Quasimodo out into the sunlight, where he is finally accepted by the citizens of Paris.

After the credits, it shows Hugo alone on top of Notre Dame, and he yells: “Goodnight everybody! Woo hoo hoo!” It then shows the Disney logo.


There are some parents and naysayers who felt this film should not have been made because the source material was too violent and the film goes into some heavy topics such as lust, Christianity, etc. Personally, I found the way said topics were handled to be done very tastefully. They were mentioned, but not the central focal point of the film.

I loved the backgrounds in Beauty¬†& the Beast.Up until I first saw this film, I thought they were some of the most breathtaking ever to be placed in an animated feature, then I saw the church of Notre Dame. Now, I’ve never been to the real thing, but from pictures I’ve seen, they really captured the beauty and mystique of the cathedral.

I was looking up some things about this film before I started this review and was surprised to find out that the gargoyles do actually do exist. I thought they were just made up for comic relief, but it turns out that they are on top of Notre Dame.

Demi Moore’s voice as Esmerelda really fits the character. Not to mention her beautiful eyes that make you wonder if they used her as a model, especially since her dance near the beginning reminds one of some of Demi’s routines in Striptease.

Tom Hulce was a surprise choice to voice Quasimodo. I mean, other than Amadeus, I don’t know much about what this guy has done. Having said that, I do think he was a good choice. He has a warmth and innocence to his voice that is quite becoming of Quasimodo.

Tony Jay’s deep voice and Kevin Kline’s heroic voice round out the case. Jay’s Judge Frollo make a villain capable of rivaling Jafar and Maleficent for best Disney villain. Kline’s Phoebus is the typical hero, nothing fancy about him, other than the fact that he was summoned from the Crusades to help Frollo round up gypsies and eventually rebels against him and ends up helping (and falling in love) with Esmerelda.

One thing I noticed about this film, aside from the insopired casting and breathtaking animation was that many of the lines resembled the heyday of Disney film such as The Aristocats, Robin Hood, 101 Dalmatians, Jungle Book, etc. This wasn’t throughout the whole film, at least not that I noticed, but in certain areas. It was really obvious with Phoebus, probably because of all the yellow and gold used for him, though.

The music in this film seems a bit overdone. I mean, it really feels like a musical, but the songs just don’t make you get up and dance. I mean, they’re good and all, but not the most memorable. That is really my biggest issue with this film.

Is this a film for the whole family? Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that. There are some images that would be quite frightening for a younger child. Still, it is a pretty good and quite enjoyable film. Watch it for yourself and let me know what you think!

4 out of 5 stars