This review originally appeared on the now-defunct site FamilyWonder.com, which showcased children's entertainment for parents and caregivers.
Title: HERCULES: ZERO TO HERO
Year: Disney, 1999
Running Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Framed by a story about his wife Meg discovering the adult Hercules's high school yearbook, HERCULES: ZERO TO HERO recounts the growing pains of the young superman. In "Hercules and the First Day of School," Zeus orders a classical education for his son. In addition to trigonometry, Hercules must contend with snobby Adonis. But those problems pale when a hungry cyclops steals his I.D. card and attacks the school looking for a hero to eat.
In "Hercules and the Grim Avenger," Hercules helps Theseus fight the Minotaur. But that doesn't make him a hero with Adonis, whose rudeness makes Hercules complain to his unsympathetic father. In "Hercules and the Visit From Zeus," the King of the Gods turns himself into a teenager to prove adolescence is a cinch. But while Zeus struggles to win at dodge ball, Hades plots to kill his temporarily mortal brother.
Best For Ages:
2-5: There is nothing here likely to upset very young viewers, but the story will probably be difficult to follow for all but the oldest.
6-8: Catchy songs, monsters, and heroic battles will keep kids entertained.
9-12: Though Hercules is supposed to be a teenager in the video, his adventures seem more appropriate for this age group.
12 and up: Fans of the Disney film may enjoy these further adventures of Hercules, though some will find the stories juvenile.
Educational Value: Hercules goes to school, experiencing many of the social and academic dilemmas familiar to kids. He learns to deal with bullies and have faith in his own strengths. The video makes reference to several Greek myths, offering comic cameos for historical figures like Euclid.
Entertainment Value: The first installment plods, but the rest of the episodes keep a snappy, witty pace. The music reprises many of the melodies from the feature film and introduces four new songs.
Violence: Cartoon cyclops and minotaur menace high school students. No one is seriously injured when temples and the school cafeteria are smashed.
Sex: Alluring teenager Cassandra has FROM HERE TO ETERNITY fantasies about pretty boy Theseus.
Frightening Situations: Cerberus, Hades's huge three-headed dog, threatens his sidekicks and several humans. Hercules' uncle threatens to kill his father.
Questionable Behavior: The cafeteria hosts food fights. Hercules beats up a bully until Theseus stops him. Prince Adonis ruins other students' science projects.
Like most Disney small-screen sequels to big-screen animated hits, HERCULES: ZERO TO HERO lacks the dazzling visuals of the feature film upon which it is based. Still, it's hard not to be charmed by the awkward demi-god and his adolescent bumbles. There's a major continuity error in that the Disney film's Hades thought Hercules had died as a baby until he met the man, but most kids won't catch that.
Though Hercules fights a lot of monsters, there's very little in this video to scare children. At times the episodes have the feel of after-school specials, with characters stating lessons like "Who cares what everyone else thinks? I only care what I think." Three- and six-year-old viewers were entertained by the food fights and smashed temples--not the most desirable areas for attention, but they also asked questions about myths referred to in the story. Another favorite was the extremely funny song about how "it's hard as Hades to be a teenager," as the ruler of the gods gets teased by a bully.
Voiced by such talents as James Woods and Tate Donovan from the original HERCULES--plus MONTY PYTHON's Eric Idle--the characters are all clever and original despite their mythic origins. Parodies of SWAN LAKE and THE LONE RANGER may be lost on young viewers, yet the relationship between Theseus and Hercules will remind them of Buzz Lightyear and Woody from TOY STORY, particularly Theseus's tendency to narrate aloud his heroic deeds.
Children's Television Reviews