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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

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
2.  Walter Frith read the review no stars
3.  MrBrown read the review no stars

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

Outlandishly stupid GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE is a MONTY PYTHON level comedy for the grade school set. It even has MONTY PYTHON regular John Cleese supplying the voice of George's intellectual sidekick, the ape named "Ape."

Brendan Fraser, who has been in a long string of silly movies (including ENCINO MAN) and a few serious ones (the best being SCHOOL TIES) hams it up as George. Everyone in the show knows that they have signed up to do a farce so they milk the slapstick as hard they can. Depending on your point of view, this film is either truly awful or so bad it is good. In either case, be warned that a little of this repetitive movie can go a long way.

The show starts with Ursula Stanhope (played by Leslie Mann from THE CABLE GUY), a rich heiress from "Frisco", and her snooty fiance, Lyle Vandergroot (Thomas Haden Church), on a safari in darkest Africa. They are there to see apes, and while in camp, they hear of the existence of a white ape.

Ursula, a ditzy blonde with the brainpower of a church mouse, seems well matched to her intended. Lyle, with his ascot and his desire for a latte in the jungle, has an intelligence equal to his fiancee's. He is also a major coward and a liar. Both Mann and Church play their characters as pure camp.

The best actor in the show is never seen. Keith Scott, with a voice like Robin Leach from "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," is the film's all-knowing narrator. When Lyle, on a lark, causes one of his guides to fall several thousand feet into the river canyon, the narrator reassures the kiddies in the audience. "Don't worry," he tells them. "Nobody dies in this story. They just get really big boo-boos." And when George gets shot point blank in the head, the narrator reasons with us, "George can't die because he's the star."

After the narrator, the next best parts of the film are the few special effects. Most of us never seen a full grown elephant that jumps around and has all the mannerisms of a dog. George has just such a hybrid, and the elephant is the largest and most unusual version of man's best friend you are ever likely to see. Imagine an elephant playing fetch.

Of course, George's raison d'etre is his proclivity to crash into everything, especially trees. ("Watch out for that tree!" is the show's mantra.) Fraser has the muscular body and the ridiculous smile that makes him well chosen for the part. George's costume consists solely of what he refers to as a "mud flap," and his home is a Swiss Family Robinson-style tree house, complete with an elevator.

After way too many flatulence jokes, GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE finally runs out of gas and ends. But don't leave yet. There's a funny epilogue set in Las Vegas.

And then it does end, well sort of. The film's theme song is guaranteed to remain firmly planted in your brain for months. You'll be singing it at the office, driving your coworkers crazy. ("George, George, George of the jungle, watch out for that treeeeee!" Aargh, I'm doing it again.)

GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE runs 1:32, which is longer than it sounds. The movie is rated PG, but consider it a G and fine for kids of any age. My son Jeffrey, age 8, thought it was "great!" His favorite part was when George's doggish elephant loaded his trunk up like a cannon and shot a bad guy in the rear with a toucan. I give the picture a mild thumbs up and ** 1/2.

Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes

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