Heroes ventured into dark places this week. The Beauty and the Beast production team took us to an undersea civilization, and the director of Con Air gave us a movie version of the video game heroine Lara Croft, who took us into ancient tombs. Both films got some praise for their surface-level spectacle; but critics shot both stories full of holes. We're already halfway through 2001, and we can count on one hand the number of movies that have given us anything but that sinking feeling we've been duped out of another eight dollars.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Disney's latest animated movie-slash-marketing blitz, is ITS most ambitious project since The Lion King. It's an undersea adventure hybrid that recalls 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Phantom Menace, and the Indiana Jones films. Hold on to your popcorn … there aren't any cuddly animals or any sappy pop songs (at least until the end credits). Instead, Disney introduces heavy gunplay into an animated feature, and ramps up the adrenaline into its most feverishly energetic animated feature yet. Our hero is Milo Thatch, voiced with youthful enthusiasm by Michael J. Fox. Thatch is a young, slightly naïve linguist obsessed with stories of the sunken civilization. His quest plunges him—and a colorful variety pack of "experts"—through perilous depths until they find the legendary civilization submerged thousands of years ago by a devastating tidal wave.

Most critics agree that Atlantis might be a tad intense for the very young. But everyone agrees that the film contains some of Disney's most memorable, dazzling animation. And some are impressed with the story's ethical concerns. Movieguide claims, "The movie teaches the value of honor, compassion and relationships."

But the religious ...

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