Marco Polo: Return to Xanadu, 2001, ½ star

Animated annoyance

From The Orlando Weekly, 2001

The creators of Marco Polo: Return to Xanadu apparently believe, as do many animators, that a children’s film must be patronizingly childish. Ironically, this childlike simplicity is the only positive quality of this rambling, laughable cartoon catastrophe.

Created by a diverse team of international artists and making its U.S. debut at this year’s festival, this mythical musical tells a disturbingly distorted version of the Marco Polo story. After visiting the mythical Xanadu and befriending Kubla Khan, the famed traveler is given one half of a golden medallion. The other half falls into the hands of the evil Foo-ling, whose quest to take over the kingdom is eventually thwarted by Polo’s grandson, who inherits his grandfather’s half of the powerful ornament. Assisting him in reuniting the medallion’s two halves and saving Xanadu is the beautiful princess Ming-Yu, the rightful ruler. Also add to the mix a few talking animals, an assortment of bad accents from Cockney to Italian to Chinese and travels through time, and you have a real mess on your hands.

The dialogue, musical numbers and second-rate animation are painful to watch, and adults will have a hard time sitting through them. But even today’s sophisticated children, more accustomed to Disney and recent computer-generated films such as Toy Story 2 and Shrek, will find the characters shallow and the plot difficult to follow. The project is not lacking in imagination though, with everything from medieval dragons to spaceships thrown in to brighten up the boring backgrounds. But the project is so ill-conceived and amateurish, one should heed the words of Marco’s seagull friend, Reginald, after one too many plot twists: “This is all very confusing and annoying.”