Movie Review: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame was written by French novelist of victor Hugo in 1831 which is what this film is based on. This film was done during the Disney renaissance time and was considered one of the darkest animated films for the. Despite that the movie was released on June 21, 1996 with success, having the fifth highest amount,

Set in 1482 in  Paris, a Clopin (Thomas Mitchell) , a gypsy and a puppeteer narrate the story. The film begins with gypsies escaping into Paris but they are ambushed by Judge Claude Frollo (Cedric Hardwicke)  the minister of justice and his soldiers.  Judge Frollo took the baby from the gypseies arms but seeing the child’s deformities, he was going to throw the baby down a well when the archdeacon stops hip, forcing him to atone for his sins, Judge Frollo must now care for the child, whom he named,Quasimodo (Charles Laughton). Frollo kept Quasimodo at the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

Fast forward  twenty years later, Quasimodo has spent his whole life up in the bell towers of the Cathedral, never having gone into the streets of Paris. Quasimodo’s only friends are three stone gargoyles, Victor (Charles Kimbrough), Hugo (Jason Alexander) and Laverne (Mary Wickes), who came to life. The gargoyles encouraged Quasimodo to attend the annual Festival of Fools, without Frollo knowing. Knowing Frollo wouldn’t allow him to be out there because Quasimodo would be shunned and bullied for his deformities. Quasimodo disobeyed Judge Frollo, being exposed by the Clopin, the people tie him up and pelt him with food. A kind gypsy, Esmeralda (Maureen O’Hara), frees Quasimodo against Frollo’s requests. Frollo demands that she is arrested but Esmeralda uses magic to escape into the Cathedral with Quasimodo. They are followed by the new captain of the guard, Captain Phoebus (Alan Marshal), who refuses to take her into custody because she claimed sanctuary. Frollo threatens her, knowing she cant stay in the Cathedral forever, and posts guards around Notre Dame. Meanwhile she finds Quasimodo in the bell tower and befriends him. When its dar out he gets her out of the Cathedral to safety. In return, she gives him a secret map to the Court of Miracles, the gypsies hideout. 

Back at Frollo’s abode, he realizes how he’s  been listing for the young gypsy. Blaming her for putting a spell on him, he uses the guards to try to capture her but shes escaped. He launches a citywide manhunt, burning the homes of the people, interrogating them to learn of her whereabouts. Captain Phoebus had enough and stepped in to stop the madness but Frollo orders the soldiers to kill the captain for betrayal. Esmeralda stops the execution long enough for Phoebus to escape, during which he was hot by an arrow and fallen into the river. As soon as it was clear, Esmeralda rescued Phoebus from the river and brought him to Quasimodo, knowing her friend would keep him safe. 

Quasimodo was going to tell Esmeralda how much he cared for her when he saw that Phoebus and Esmeralda had fallen in love. Keeping his word to her, Quasimodo warned of Frollo’s return. Esmeralda gets away again, and Quasimodo hides Phoebus before Frollo makes his entrance. Frollo plays Quasimodo, telling him that he knows where the location of the Court of Miracles is, and that he was going to attack at dawn. Leaving Quasimodo in a lurch. Phoebus tells Quasimodo that he’s going to find the gypsies and warn them. Quasimodo finally agrees and using the secret map they find the Gypsies, unknowingly leading the soldiers right to their location. The gypsies and Phoebus were captured, and Guasimodo was take back to Notre Dame, being tied up to watch the death of his new friends.

Using it as both entertainment and as a scare tactic. Frollo gets ready to execute Esmeralda Using all his strength, Quasimodo breaks the chains and rescues Esmeralda, bringing her back to the Cathedral. A riot breaks out, Phoebus and the gypsies escape their cages and with the townsfolk, they fight the soldiers. Frollo demands that the doors of Notre Dame are broken down. Quasimodo and his gargoyle friends fight back from above. Frollo manages to get in and attacks Quasimodo and Esmeralda but falls to his death. The fight is over and Phoebus and Esmeralda are reunited. Together they greet the people outside of Notre Dame and Esmeralda brings Quasimodo out, where the people take him in as one of them, hailing him a hero.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

So I am traumatized by The Hunchback of Notre Dame from when my parents took me to see this when I was a kid. While I appreciate the notion, Disney back in the 90s was super dark. I mean who thought this movie was good for kids to see? Granted I showed Matthew at probably the same age and no effect. He adores scary films so I guess that’s a bonus. I would not recommend it for kids though. There is a lot of death and fire and sexualization from Frollo, the villain. There are of course some great Easter eggs from Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Lion King, comment down below if you know what they are.

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