Film Review: Delgo



"Delgo" seems to follow all the rules for a good, fast-paced cartoon. It mixes forbidden romance with palace intrigue, fanciful creatures, scenery-destroying duels and fierce battles between armies. Yet nothing catches fire. The story line and characters are all terribly derivative, and audiences young and old are left with the feeling that, as the saying goes, they don't have a horse in this race.

Animated films generally do well during the holidays, but "Delgo's" makers create quite a problem for their film: The action and violence are too intense for some youngsters -- including the one behind me at a screening who demanded to leave less than five minutes into the film -- and the story is far too dull for most adults. Boxoffice prospects for the Freestyle release are below average.

Adults might want to occupy their minds counting the sources of "inspiration." First, there is "Romeo and Juliet" as two teens from warring tribes fall for each other. Delgo (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.) is an adventurous lad from the Lockni, beings that control the mystical powers of the land. Kyla (Jennifer Love Hewitt) is a princess of the winged Nohrin, who rule the sky.

Their separate domains plus a third belonging to the outcast evil empress (the late Anne Bancroft) play like remnants from "The Lord of the Rings" and "Star Wars" sagas with strange landscapes, fantastical creatures and militaristic responses to any and all crises. The Lockni have a simian quality to their faces, so you can probably throw in "The Planet of the Apes" movies, too.

The trouble is that the more directors Marc F. Adler and Jason Maurer move into the weird and strange, the duller the film becomes. Fairy-tale invention trumps character and story ingenuity at every point. There also is a level of slapstick throughout that relegates the film to very young and undemanding viewers.

The filmmakers have loaded their voice cast with names including Val Kilmer, Malcolm McDowell, Louis Gossett Jr., Eric Idle and Burt Reynolds. They could have saved their money, though, as few give their characters any vocal distinction.