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George Of The Jungle

Starring Brendan Fraser, Pamela Mann, Thomas Hayden Church, and the voices of John Cleese and Keith Scott
Screenplay by Dana Olsen and Audrey Wells
Directed by Sam Weisman

"Why my son, Cranky, should be more like George of the Jungle."

By his mother, the doctor

(It's really a Ph.D, but I love her so just go along with it. Please? Thanks.)

George owns a lovely home, unlike my son who is still renting at age 40. He has a proper English servant, though the man is in severe need of a haircut and a shave, who's smart enough to help him with the Sunday Times crossword puzzle.

George's "servant," is an ape, named Ape, who probably writes the Sunday Times crossword puzzle. I, on the other hand, have a lovely view of Bloomingdales.

(Point for you.) George has a fine, athletic lifestyle. My son, on the other hand, sits in the dark and makes all kinds of strange noises.

It's called laughter, mother. I was laughing...

(You made the same noises during The English Patient.) If my son rode the vines like George, his medical insurance policy would pay to fix the nose.

If I rode the vines like George, I'd have no face left. And there's nothing wrong with my nose!

(It's a real honker. Half the size of Jersey, easy.) George has a lovely shiksa blonde wife, which I'd settle for because Cranky's sister is having no more children and I want more grandkidlets to play with. I'm not getting any younger, you know...

<sigh> OK ma, we've killed enough space without giving away the jokes. Scoot. I've got to do the real review type work now.

OK darling. Come for dinner on Sunday. I'll cook!

(She'll call out for Chinese food).

So. OK. Real work time. Here it is, a live action version of Jay Ward's George of the Jungle cartoon. The very idea was so outlandish that I figured only two results were possible: a) either the thing was going to be such a mess that "bomb" wouldn't even begin to describe it, or 2) at minimum, it would be a sheer delight

Cranky goes with choice number "2." It's a couple of truck loads of giggles and more, that's for sure.

What made Jay Ward's cartoons so perfect was a format that worked in almost setting. It could be the Canadian wilderness (Dudley Do-right) or the dense and under populated Bujumbura jungle, home of the hidden mountain and butt-flap clad George, George, George of the Jungle, smart as he can be (which is not very). George (Brendan Fraser) has an intelligence that rates in the negative IQ. His mate, Ursula (Pamela Mann) is just a wee bit smarter (more air than head). What the couple have in common is a heart the size of Rhode Island and an elephant named Shep, who thinks that it's a dog.

Smarter than everybody in them thar cartoons was The Narrator (the late Paul Frees, now Keith Scott) who not only told the televiewing audience the story, he also told the characters the story, reinforcing the scientific fact that the air contained within a cartoon skull cavity is no heavier than the air outside said cavity. Besides, it was the job of the Narrator to keep things moving. As it is to this day.

As George begins, a cartoon title sequence charts the story from babyhood, (baby head bonking low hanging tree branches), to adulthood (the full body slam that we know and expect). In live action, the adult George rescues the limp, as in unconscious, Ursula from a boor of a fiancee (Thomas Hayden Church) and proceeds to woo her, under the instruction of Ape (Nameer El-Kadi in the monkey suit and voice by John Cleese).

The problem is that Ape, though he speaks Oxford English, has no idea of the mating rituals of the human being and so teaches George the ritual of the ape which has something to do with tossing leaves in the air. Sure, it makes George look like a monkey but the joke comes back when you least expect it -- Watch for it.

Damn. I gave away a joke. Thank God the gag reads like a dud. It isn't, but it reads that way. Onward...

The screenplay by Dana Olson and Audrey Wells, revisits every trick in the Jay Ward catalog and then takes George where his butt-flap has never been before, to the home of what he calls "the world's largest rope bridge," San Francisco.

Like I said, George has a big heart. There may be no suitable trees in San Fran, but George finds a fitting alternative. There, the jungle man, who grew up with no human contact, gets more than he ever could have wished for. We get to sit through more jokes than an ape can toss a bunch of leaves at.

After a great stunt effect on said rope bridge we discover that UPS can deliver a man in a box back to the Bujumbura faster than two lugs can lug a talking ape out of said jungle, when the lugs have at least a two day head start. (George of the Jungle isn't big on linear continuity, but who gives a soggy banana about that?)

George of the Jungle uses everything in the Mouse's coffers (it's a Disney flick) for joke fodder and, yes, there's a delicious take on other jungle creatures in the Disney stable. All this, plus the best use of surround sound to fuel a gag that Cranky has ever seen. Um, heard.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to George of the Jungle, he would have paid...


It isn't easy acting out a cartoon character, so Cranky's hat is off to all concerned. It also isn't easy writing up a comedy whose jokes are the backbone of the story. Lastly, don't even think of getting out of the theater when you think the movie is over, because Cleese gets the last word. George of the Jungle is a lot more than tree gags. It was delightful.

Click to buy films starring Brendan Fraser
Click to buy films starring Pamela Mann
Click to buy films starring Thomas Hayden Church
Click to buy films starring John Cleese

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