18 March 2009

DVD: "Pocahontas" - 10th Anniversary Edition

Directed by Mike Gabriel & Eric Goldberg
Screenplay by Carl Binder, Susannah Grant, Philip LaZebnik
Starring the Voice Talent of: Irene Bedard, Judy Kuhn, Mel Gibson, David Ogden Stiers, Russell Means, Linda Hunt, James Apaumat Fall
DVD Release Date: 3 May 2005
MPAA Rating: G
List Price: $29.99
Cinescopes Personality Types: Chosen Adventurer, Magical Creator

The Film
Think "Romeo & Juliet: Jamestown."  In this version of the legend, Pocahontas (Bedard/Kuhn) is at least in her late teens and not particularly interested in the marriage to the stoic Kocoum (Fall) arranged by her father, the tribe's chieftain (Means).  Enter: the arrival of the Virginia Company, headed by the gold-seeking Governor Ratcliffe (Ogden-Stiers).  Savage-slaying John Smith (Gibson) secretly meets Pocahontas, and as they come to learn from one another, their respective people escalate toward an inevitable violent confrontation.

For the tenth anniversary, Disney restored a cut musical segment of Mel Gibson singing "If I Never Knew You" into the film; fans may recall the song was performed over the end credits by Jon Secada and Shanice.  If you prefer the film without (or simply want to compare the two versions), you have your choice--just go to "Set Up" in the main menu; otherwise, if you simply hit "Play Movie," it is the anniversary version that plays.  The anniversary edition also includes a commentary by producer James Pentecost and co-directors Gabriel and Goldberg.  Otherwise, nearly every bonus feature to be found on these two discs are vintage material, including production art, a 28:00 documentary hosted by Irene Bedard and the obligatory excised segments of songs re-invented as sing-alongs.

The Recommendation
Historians should content themselves that much of the film's background imagery and depictions of Powhatan rituals were reasonably well-researched because the principal plot of the film is based entirely on the legend of Pocahontas, rather than fact.  Once you get past that and simply take the film as a film, it's quite enjoyable.  Largely, this is due to the mature handling of the story by Disney--for once, the animals do not sing.  There are some not-so-subtle messages (pro-environment, anti-prejudice) that perhaps mean more today than they did in 1995.  Parents should know there are two on-screen shootings, including one on-screen death.

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