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George of the Jungle

movie review out of 4 Movie Review: George of the Jungle

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Leslie Mann
Director: Sam Weisman
Rated: PG
RunTime: 91 Minutes
Release Date: July 1997
Genres: Comedy, Family, Kids

*Also starring: Thomas Haden Church, Richard Roundtree, John Cleese, Greg Cruttwell, Abraham Benrubi, Holland Taylor, Kelly Miller

Review by MrBrown
0 stars out of 4

Hollywood's track record in bringing old television cartoons to real life in the big screen hasn't exactly been good, to the say the least: in 1980, Popeye came to theatres in Robert Altman's musical oddity; 1994 saw the heavily hyped but thunderously boring The Flintstones. The track record doesn't get any better with Sam Weisman's thoroughly unwatchable treatment of Jay Ward's 1960s animated series.

Brendan Fraser stars as the title character, the wide-eyed king of the jungle who has a problem with crashing into trees; Leslie Mann is the love interest, heiress Ursula Stanhope; John Cleese provides the voice of George's simian sidekick, an ape named Ape; and Thomas Haden Church is the villainous Lyle Van de Groot, Ursula's fiance. So what is the film about? Don't ask scripters Dana Olsen and Audrey Wells. Their script is a mess, heavy on slapstick pratfalls ("when in doubt, have George slam into something" seems to be their philosophy) and groaner one-liners, light on anything resembling a plot--and without any dramatic structure, the film seems to drag on and on and on (and then some) without any rhyme or reason. Olsen and Wells try to infuse some irony into the proceedings through the use of an unseen, pompously self-aware narrator (Keith Scott). The attempt at self-mocking is admirable, but the writers just don't seem to realize just how bad it all is, from the overly broad performances (Fraser's George is more of an annoying dimwit than a charming innocent) to the cheap-looking jungle sets. The one thing one would think the film would at the very least get right is the nostalgia kick from its bouncy theme song. Alas, even that is botched--instead of using the original version from the TV show during the main titles, Weisman serves up an alterna-rock-inflected version by the Presidents of the United States of America.

At a tick over 90 minutes, the painfully forced, unfunny George feels three times its actual length, if not more. At the media screening, the guy sitting behind me could be heard loudly snoring during the third act. We should all be so lucky.

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