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'Mighty Joe Young'

Review: Monkeying around with 'Mighty Joe Young'

December 25, 1998
Web posted at: 7:25 a.m. EST (1225 GMT)

From Reviewer Paul Clinton

(CNN) -- Hollywood went ape for "King Kong" in 1933, but it wasn't until 1949 that producers came up with another movie about an gorilla done wrong by the injustice of man, "Mighty Joe Young."

Over years of TV airings, "Mighty Joe Young" has gathered a loyal following of ardent fans. One of those fans is Joe Roth who just happens to be the chairman of Walt Disney Studios. So watch out, here comes the monkey.

Standing 15 feet high and sporting a costume made out of Yak and horsehair, our hero in this 1998 remake of "Mighty Joe Young" cuts quite a figure as he emerges from darkest, deepest Africa where Charlize Theron, as Jill Young, is running around wearing a neverending series of pastel colored halter tops.

Jill's and Joe's mothers were both murdered by poachers in Africa on the same night. Now orphans, the pair were raised together in the jungle. The monkey has taken the family surname, hence he's become Joe Young (stay with me here).

Paul's Pix: "Mighty Joe Young"
Windows Media: 28k or 56k

With poachers once again closing in on the big guy, zoologist Gregg O'Hara -- played by Bill Paxton -- helps Jill get Joe out of Africa and into the safety of Los Angeles. Safety? Los Angeles? Who's kidding who? Of course geography doesn't stop Joe's enemies and Jill and Gregg must continue to fight them off even after arriving in the United States.

Great scenery, cartoonish villains, huges leaps of suspended belief, and mouthwatering shots of Charlize Theron are in plentiful supply in "Mighty Joe Young." And baby, can this boy travel. He goes from Africa to L.A. in just one dissolve. Then when he escapes he goes from Hollywood Boulevard, to the Los Angeles river, to the Pacific Palisades in seconds. If you're not familiar with L.A ... trust me ... couldn't happen.

But hey, this is action-adventure, right? Even on that level, and considering that this film has been made mostly for kids, this "fish out of water" story, or rather this "gorilla out of the jungle" story still doesn't really work. There were a few sniffles at the screening I attended, but I suspect those people also cry at supermarket openings.

The gorilla is pretty impressive and expressive, but overall it's much ado about -- not much. I have a feeling this film will be fairly low on the food chain of "must see" holiday films.

Warning: The ending stuck on this remake is even sappier than the original and is guaranteed to make you gag. "Mighty Joe Young" opens nationwide on December 25. Rated PG for some action violence, and mild language. 114 minutes.

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