Why do I do this to myself? Why do have this urge to watch another Hunchback rip-off? Why? Morbid curiosity? Yep, that's probably it.
This one is called "The Secret of the Hunchback'', from UAV Entertainment. No, I never heard of them either. Let's just get started.
We begin overlooking Notre Dame, while a narrator informs us that this was the only place in Paris that one could find sanctuary and acceptance. It's a tale of "love and honor, deception and evil." It's the best of times, it's the worst of times! Ultimately, says the narrator, it's the tale of lives made empty by the fear of those who were different. I see that this one's not really going for subtlety, either.
Someone leaves a basket with a deformed baby inside on the steps of Notre Dame. The Archdeacon and a friar take the baby in. The Archdeacon is pretty cool about the whole thing, though the friar seems taken aback.
A doctor comes to inspect the baby, presumably to make sure it's healthy. He takes one look at the child (whom we do not see, I might add) and flips out. He pops some pills (seriously) and rushes off, muttering that he should have been a shoe salesman. "Miracles are your department," he tells the Archdeacon.
In a moment that's actually kind of clever, the two holy men ring a little bell for the baby, delighting him. The narrator informs us that Quasimodo grows into a kind man, but hides from the outside world in the belltower, seemingly by his own choice. His only friends are the stone gargoyles.
The opening credits roll, while an overture of sorts plays. It's all synth, but it's still a better effort than the Golden Films version.
We are then introduced to the town's sheriff, who looks a lot like Gaston as well. What's up with all these Not!Gastons? His wacky sidekick (yes, he gets one, too) complains that the holy men do not know what it takes to give a criminal a "good beating" before Lord Frollo, as the sheriff is revealed to be named (at least Frollo's actually in the story) strangles the guy.
Frollo is at Notre Dame, accusing the holy men of not giving enough money to his treasury and not doing enough to protect or serve the people of Paris. The Archdeacon says that they give God's protection, and I actually think I'm starting to like this character. He's got some diginity, believe it or not.
Frollo does the "I'd hate for something to happen to this place" schtick and he's basically running a protection racket. He also inquires about the "monster" in the belltower, makes some more thinly-veiled threats, and leaves. The Archdeacon and the friar react in disgust and then go off to celebrate "Fool's Day."
Upstairs in the belltower, we hear Quasimodo's voice for the first time. It's raspy and he's got a cockney accent. Okay, then. He's happy to see everyone enjoying themselves. He does some exposition to the unmoving gargoyles about how he's scary and everyone's scared of him because he's different and yadda yadda. He then gets a suggestion from one of the gargoyles (who only he can hear) to go out in disguise.
Down in the festival, a sloshed jester asks for a hideous mask from a vendor. "I'm not as think as you drunk I am," he assures us, and I hate to say it, but that made me smile a little. Quasi snatches a terrifying clown mask (seriously, it's Nightmare Fuel) and partakes in some fun. In a weird moment, he accidently hits a vendor on the head, giving him a lump, then heals him E.T. style. He also wins a pair of dolls and gives them to some kids, which is cute.
Quasimodo, still wearing his pants-wettingly scary mask, comes across a poet (holy crap, are they actually including Gringoire? I suddenly respect them so much more!), who is pitching his writing to onlookers. The poems are awful and he is quickly booed by the nasty crowd. In a nice little joke, the people buy rotten vegetables from a stand. Breaking the fourth wall, the vendor remarks, "You don't think people just carry this stuff around, do ya?" Again, I smiled a little. This isn't great, but it's a step up.
Quasi decides to carry Gringoire off (I'm just calling him that, whether or not it's really him), lest someone be hurt by the awful poetry. They find their way over to some gypsy performers, who introduce Esmeralda (none of this "Melody" crap). Quasi and Gringoire are immediately smitten as Esmeralda begins to sing a ballad about wanting more in life. It's a typical "I Want" Song, nothing to really see here. She does dance with Gringoire and Quasi, though, while her musician cohorts try to pickpocket the crowd, which kind of goes against the "gypsies are nice guys" theme.
At the end of the song, Quasi' mask comes off, revealing his true face, and it's not pretty. It's better than the clown mask, though. That thing was messed up. A minor riot stats and Quasi and Gringoire escape. The gypsies, however, are captured by the guards.
Quasi and Gringoire hide in a barn and give each other a proper introduction. They pine over Esmeralda and talk about how there's more on the inside and your typical cliche stuff. They then vow to find Esmeralda and take her away from the life of crime that her "friends" are dabbling in.
At the Palace of Justice, Frollo is eating pig bowels (seriously, they actually say that!). He's not impressed with the meal that his sidekick has prepared. His sidekick, BTW, has some French name that they mumble and I'm too lazy to try to figure it out. He's just Sidekick. Frollo reveals to Sidekick that he's really after the gold in Notre Dame .
I should point out now that for once they thought of something before Disney—this is the plot to Disney's awful sequel, not to mention the idea of Esmeralda being involved with some shady guys, much like Madeline in said sequel. Huh...
The guards bring in the gypsies, who Frollo calmly orders executed, literally without looking up. Sidekick, who has some kind of torture fetish, suggests they make the prisoners "beg for their miserable lives," which Frollo likes the sound of. He and Sidekick, of course, are immediately smitten with Esmeralda.
The gypsies try to explain that Quasimodo caused the riot, which gives Sidekick an idea. A monster causing panic and fear?
SIDEKICK: Who does that make you think of?
FROLLO: My first wife?
Okay, there was no rimshot, but I wouldn't put it past them.
Sidekick plots that if Quasi is responsible for the riot (which didn't seem to do any actual lasting harm), they can capture him and use him to blackmail the Archdeacon. Frollo orders the gypsies to bring him Quasi, but decides to keep Esmeralda as a trophy, because he's one-dimensional and chauvenistic. Cue the Evil Laugh.
Under the stars, Gringoire professes his love for Esmeralda in a half-decent poem. Quasi commends him, saying that he only needed the proper inspiration. Oh, and his name is really Pierre, which pisses me off. Screw it, he's Gringoire.
Quasi hears the BELLS OF NOTRE DAME ringing, and realizes that there's trouble. I think. He rushes off through the empty streets. The Archdeacon and the friar are the ones ringing the bells, wondering where Quasi is. Quasi arrives and explains what happened at the festival, including the riot. The Archdeacon tries to comfort him, but doesn't do a very good job. Can't win 'em all, Father.
Quasi goes into emo mode and the Archdeacon tells him that he should probably remain here for his own safety. As he leaves, the gargoyles come to life, because plagerism.
The gargoyle randomly sounds like the Satchmo, so I'm calling him Louie for the time being. The other gargoyles come to life, put on sunglasses, and dear lord, they're gonna sing. Again, anyone who hates on "A Guy Like You" should watch these videos. They'll come running back to Hugo, Victor, and Laverne with open arms.
It's a bluesy song in the vein of "Dig a Little Deeper" from The Princess and the Frog. It's about what's on the inside, WE KNOW! Cheer up, Quasi, etc, etc.
Quasi wakes up the next morning and decides the musical number was a massive hallucination.
The gypsies, meanwhile, engage in some Three Stooges-esque slapstick, and plot to capture Quasi. The big, dumb one suggests that they use Esmeralda as a lure, but the small, bossy one angrily points out that Esmeralda is back with Frollo. They decide to use the big one as Esmeralda because crossdressing is always funny, right? Never mind that the skinny, Larry Fine one has a better body type and why am I applying logic to this?
Up in the belltower, Quasi uses his E.T. powers to heal a little bird with a broken wing. This had better be explained at the end, but I doubt it will be. A phony poster blows in, advertising Esmeralda, who will be dancing in the totally-not-a-trap-woods. Quasi rushes off.
I'm tired, so I'm stopping here. So far, this hasn't been awful, just mediocre. I've seen a lot worse. We'll see if it continues to be lukewarm in the next installment!