Everybody loves a meaty, sordid soap opera—it’s okay, you can admit it—and no one understood that better than the Greeks. With more sex, violence, treachery, and infidelity than a season’s worth of Melrose Place, the tales of gods high on Mount Olympus will have a much longer pop-culture shelf life. Why? Because for all its displays of raging self-interest, Melrose doesn’t have monsters. The creators of the syndicated TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess knew a good thing when they saw it and used those myths to offer viewers something they hadn’t seen in a while: stalwart heroes, buxom maidens, gruesome creatures, and, above all, high adventure. So, part of what makes the direct-to-video Hercules & Xena The Animated Movie: The Battle for Mount Olympus such a disappointment is how unadventurous it is.
True to mythic story lines Disney’s Hercules dared not follow, Olympus finds Zeus and Hera having marital problems that stem from the fact that Zeus sleeps around. Hera decides to get even by freeing the Titans, whom Zeus deposed, and running things herself—unless Hercules and his helpful sidekicks can stop her.
It’s all suitably legendary, but why must the animated movie hark back to Hanna-Barbera in the paint-by-numbers Speed Buggy years? Even its greatest strength—the assured voice work of Kevin Sorbo and Lucy Lawless, reprising their TV roles—only reminds us of what’s unforgivable about Olympus: It’s not nearly as vivid a cartoon as the live-action series. D