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Pocahontas (1995)



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After a recent string of popular, fun-filled hits, Disney dared to go out on a limb and make a mature, down-to-earth, not-so-happily-ever-after film about Pocahontas and John Smith. It was a commendable idea that unfortunately resulted in moderate disappointment. Pocahontas suffers badly from an overdose of political correctness (though not nearly as bad it looks at first glance) and historical inaccuracy. Inaccuracy is a point I steer around for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but it is more detrimental to Pocahontas for a couple of reasons. One, the inaccuracies are with regard to actual history, not a fictional work, and two, it looks awfully contrived in light of Disney's initial intentions. Yes, the ending to Pocahontas is not the traditional end of a Disney film, but not only is the end where it is most historically inaccurate, but it wouldn't have been plausible even in theory. (Did the screenwriters have any idea how long it takes to cross the Atlantic by the ships of the day?) These faults aside, Pocahontas is a good story. Unlike the previous year's The Lion King, whose plot was overly simplistic, Pocahontas explores some complex issues: blind love and prejudicial hatred, individuals in and apart from societies, etc. The tension in Pocahontas -- between Pocahontas and John Smith, between the Indians and the Pilgrims, and so forth -- results directly from some very human emotions. Sadly, some of the film's potential fails to materialize or is undermined by the aforementioned contrivance of an ending. Furthermore, while the humorous squabbling of the furry comic relief characters can be legitimately said to mirror the actions of the human characters, one can't help but think their primary raison d'etre is obligatory laughs and cuteness. Pocahontas is a good film, a fine piece of work disappointing only in the context of Disney's other work. But it's no classic.

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