By Owen Gleiberman
Updated June 23, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

For the gee-whiz inter-galactic adventure Titan A.E., the veteran animator Don Bluth combined his usual proficient, rather lusterless simulation of the ”classical” Disney hand-drawn style with newfangled computer-generated imagery. In at least once instance, the CGI stuff is fairly nifty. Our hero, a peppy space warrior named Cale (voiced by Matt Damon), has located a long-lost spherical rocket ship inside a floating forest of giant ice crystals. The crystals, which resemble snowflakes the size of asteroids, have the sheen of ultra-polished blue steel. They look amazingly tactile, especially when they break ever so gently into delicate wind-chime fragments. The entire sequence has just what you want in an animated sci-fi movie: a vision never encountered before.

The rest of Titan A.E. is like something you’ve encountered far too often. Bluth, whose pictures include The Secret of NIMH, The Land Before Time, and All Dogs Go to Heaven, codirected the movie with Gary Goldman, and it’s clear that he’s trying to advance his technological artistry along with the times. But he’s still got one foot — and most of the other — stranded in an outdated era.

The traditional cartoon elements of Titan A.E., both the story and visuals, are unutterably bland. Cale has been conceived as the sort of blond Matt Damon action figure you’d expect to get with a Happy Meal. It’s up to this guy to save mankind, but mostly what he does is square off against an equally vapid action-figuroid nemesis (voiced by Bill Pullman) and some electric-blue devil sprites that look like they just stepped off a pinball machine. Bluth had the right idea with those epic ice crystals, but it takes more than one F/X flash to create a universe. Titan A.E. is Star Wars pulped and mashed into flavorless kiddie corn. C