Movie Review: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

by Catherine McCafferty
Average rating of 5/5. (2 Ratings)
My rating
  • I love it!
  • I like it a lot!
  • I like it.
  • Just okay.
  • Not for me.

  • MPAA Rating: G
  • Running Time: 91 minutes

Loyalty, love, and kindness will always trump the world's cruelty.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of Disney's most ambitious, beautiful, poignant, and difficult animated films. Although it carries a G rating, it also carries complex and mature subjects: Authority can be bad, as with Claude Frollo, the Minister of Justice who's self-righteously cruel; or good, as with Phoebus, who bends, then breaks the rules to do what is right. People who look different or live differently are feared or mocked as "outcasts." Esmeralda's immortal soul can be redeemed (according to Frollo) if she gives herself to him physically. Quasimodo himself believes that he is a "monster" and Gypsies are "evil" simply because Frollo has told him so, again and again. These issues move toward a positive resolution, but they are painful to watch as they unfold.

There are humor, action, and adventure in the film, but in the larger context, this feels less like a film for young children than adults. The story, as well as lyrics such as "Out There" and "God Help the Outcasts," provides food for thought and discussion, but they're the kind that seem better suited to viewers ten and older.

Kids Will Like:
Okay, there are two huge belches by "Last Year's King of Fools," and Djali the goat.

"Topsy Turvy" is a sight to see-and dance along with.

The gargoyles are always good for a joke.

Parents Will Like:
Hunchback definitely delivers the message about not judging others by their appearance or by ethnic group.

It's also a visually -- and lyrically -- beautiful film to watch.

Heads Up:
The film opens on a very dark note. Frollo pursues and ultimately kills Quasimodo's mother, then turns to drown the baby Quasimodo in a well.

Frollo's self-righteous evil throughout the film makes him the complete opposite of every lesson parents try to teach about acceptance and kindness. This, in turn, sends a mixed message to young viewers trying to figure out just why he's the Minster of Justice. The film also develops the concept of following your conscience rather than an authority when there is a conflict between the two. This is a positive but complicated idea that will no doubt prompt some discussion.

Given the setting (a Catholic cathedral) and characters (e.g., the Archdeacon), religion and God are very much a part of the story.

Own It?
Rent it first. It is a classic, but it isn't your average Disney fare. Not all may take to it enough to give it repeated viewings.

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