Tuesday, May 27, 2014

George of the Jungle (1997) Review:

Cartoons are difficult to convert to movies. With a short running time of only 20-25 minutes of plot, it can be fatal to drag it out for more than an hour. This is not the first of its kind but it possibly one of the better live-action adaptations that have been presented to broader audiences of recent memory. There are a number reasons to why this stands true compared to other cartoons but it also contains flaws that many others have too. Therefore, it only constitutes as slightly above average.

Ah yes, that true love...
Audiences are introduced to George (Brendan Fraser), a simple-minded man brought up by the local Apes of Africa. One day he stumbles upon a beautiful tourist named Ursula (Leslie Mann) and they immediately began to fall for each other. To George's dismay, Ursula isn't single, for her fiancĂ© Lyle (Thomas Hayden Church) is also in love with her - thus beginning the plot. There are a number of pluses that come with the bad here. Thankfully, there's a tad more good than bad. First are the characters. Brendan Fraser as George of the Jungle was perfect. Fraser not only can do action but also handles comedy with ease. His persona  resembles that of a human cartoon; like Jim Carrey but not as extreme.

Leslie Mann as the damsel is ok. She is definitely cute enough for the role but doesn't make her character stand out. For a female character that stands up to some high-end people, she's still ditsy. However, the other cast members help overshadow her performance. Thomas Hayden Church is funny because of how naive he is and his perception of the lower class locals when in fact; he is the lowest of the low. Heading the locals is Kwame (Richard Roundtree from the original Shaft (1971)) and he too has funny moments. Along with that is John Cleese's voice work as George's friend Ape. The intellectual dialog that he is given sounds preposterous but in a silly fun kind of way. Topping it off is Keith Scott's narration; he is possibly one of the more comical of characters even though he is never seen.

What helps these characters actually make the film worth a watch is partly due to the writing, which involves breaking the fourth wall. This is not done once or twice, the count exceeds far more than many comedies actually do nowadays. But this particular element is what help makes it work and be funny. Unfortunately, the other part of the writing that doesn't work is what every other live-action cartoon movie includes; throwing the main characters into the current day. Relying on a character from decades before to make scenes comical by putting them in real world situations don't work very often. It's cliched and it doesn't give a unique universe for the main characters. Originally it started out fun and different because it took place in a jungle where things would happen that many audiences don't see, but in the city? If it's called George of the JUNGLE, why is it taking place in the CITY?

The snooty Mr. Lyle
There's also some noticeable loopholes in the story that don't give any explanation to how certain characters knew or remembered various information. However, in some cases some of the situations that take place should not be considered because the movie does play out like a cartoon, which is important if it's based off of one. That also doesn't mean the special effects should remind audiences of that. Since this movie was released at a time where CGI was really starting to boom, it can be seen clear as daylight what is fake and what is real. Unfortunately, that badly dates it. It could be worse though because Marc Shaiman's score kept fidelity to the original theme but made it fun to listen to for the whole ride of the movie. It's better than most.

The majority of characters and parts of the comedy are funny at times along with appropriate music. Yet, the story is cliche and the special effects are dated.

Points Earned --> 6:10

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