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IN SHORT: Kidlet fare. [Rated PG]
Cranky's dad remembers the original Mighty Joe Young well enough to be able to remember the starlet credit to "Miss Terry Moore," played in this remake by Charlize Theron. Cranky never saw the original (and wouldn't compare even if he had) but he did plop himself down in the middle of an audience of 200 or so eight to twelve year olds, for them's the real target of this family flick. The teens in the audience hid in the back two rows of the theater, loudly casting innuendoes about the size of the sexual parts of a fifteen foot tall gorilla. The dissing by the elder kidlets continued only until the inevitable rampage and destruction of a big city by the ape, at which point those Teenboys started cheering.
It's important that kidlets get something to watch while us grownups suffer through the inevitable Oscar wannabe performances by good actors in incredibly unappetizing roles. By any standard bell curve of the ratings of the 180+ movies I've sat through this year, Mighty Joe Young falls somewhere dead in the middle. The story is derivative, the effects are pretty damn good, the kidlets were happy as campers and even the teen disscamp were appropriately silenced when mayhem reigned. That's the sign of a good park 'em and sneak out for a cup of coffee movie; an even better sign of great video to come.
As Mighty Joe Young opens we meet Baby Gorilla Joe and little tiny Jill, Joe's best human friend. Jill's mom is an anthropologist who is documenting the life of the gorillas and living native style in a remote African village. One night, poachers invade, Jill's mom is killed and Baby Joe bites the fingers off the hand of the bad guy. The sequence is violent and Cranky, old fogey that I am, was worried about the effect on the little ones bouncing up and down in their seats. The bouncing is the clue, they were unaffected. Jump twelve years and a new anthropologist is in the jungle. His name is Gregg O'Hara (Bill Paxton) and he's a 90s kind of guy. He doesn't capture. He takes blood samples. But his support team of ex-poachers has other ideas and pretty soon we meet the full grown King of the Forest, who smashes trucks and roars and makes all the kidlets happy. Joe's best friend is the every spectacular Jill (Charlize Theron) always a sight for very old, very sore, Cranky eyes. <sigh>.
From there on in, as in the original by Kong director Merian Cooper, it's King Kong redux, with the exception that the lady of the piece is never helpless or in danger. Joe is brought to "safety" in Los Angeles (!) where his old enemy the Poacher tracks him down. Mayhem. Destruction. Explosions. Lots of pretty colors. Vidflick.
It isnt a big problem, but Los Angeles is basically a flat city. There aren't a lot of great things to climb to the top of which makes the eventual hunt and kill sequence (which is not as it reads, this is the 90s y'know) less dramatic than the icon of Kong. So what? Park the kids, take a breather. Or be like Cranky, and take very deep breaths every time Charlize is on screen.
I have got to get a life . . .
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Mighty Joe Young, he would have paid...
That's about kidlet
ticket price here in New York. It's also what you'll pay in a couple of
months to let this thing run on teevee pay per view all day. I know my
niece and nephew. They'll eat this sucker up.
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