For years, mature audiences have longed for a Disney animated feature that didn't place furry critters singing pop songs front and center. While this long-anticipated effort to create just such a story for the PG-13 crowd is occasionally quite entertaining, it comes up a bit short. An attack sequence by an aquatic robot monster that resembles the offspring of a squid mated to a lobster is particularly effective, as is a climactic battle atop a hot air balloon rising from the bowels of a volcano. The problem is that too much time is wasted in the interim on introducing a populous supporting cast of characters who don't end up adding much to the proceedings. Comic relief players such as a French "digger" known as Mole (Corey Burton) and a rootin' tootin' cowboy cook named, imaginatively, Cookie (the late Jim Varney) become quickly irksome, leaving the film's female lead Kida (Cree Summer) almost a cameo role. The film's truncated running time, kept within the "under 90 minutes," toddler-friendly dictum that has ruled the Disney roost for decades, doesn't do much service to the story either. It was a bold decision to let the characters take their time finding the lost city, but at that point the film's half over and what follows feels rushed and forced. Atlantis: The Lost Empire has all the makings of a classy sci-fi epic for animation fans, but like Titan A.E. (2000) before it, the studio's effort to be all things to all audience demographics results in a film that never quite coalesces into a story about which any one specific group of viewers can care.
by Karl Williams review