Treasure Planet: © Walt Disney
November 27, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST

What can you say about a cartoon in which the super-ultra-bland teen adventurer hero has not one, not two, but three annoying jabber-happy sidekicks? Treasure Planet wants to be ”Treasure Island” crossed with ”Star Wars,” but the desperation of the Disney animators is right there in the ongepatshket mesh of that concept. The movie, which features the spectacle of triple-masted pirate ships in space and not a heck of a lot else, could almost be a metaphor for the awkwardness of retrofitting hand-drawn animation to the computer age.

From the moment that young Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who surely represents the dregs of Spielbergian Fatherless Boy syndrome, climbs aboard his mighty galleon, the movie is all cutesy updated fripperies and zero momentum. (The blustery matey John Silver is now a cyborg with a robo-arm, and so forth.) Quite honestly, you could nap for an hour and not miss a thing, but when the crew finally makes it to the glowing piles of booty at Treasure Planet’s core, the film unleashes some pleasing visual fireworks. That’s where it should have started, not ended.

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