Camp Nowhere

Camp Nowhere.
Hollywood Pictures 1994.

Before watching the movie:

Despite having gone through a phase in my early teens when I got obsessed with and went through the filmographies of many actors including Christopher Lloyd, it seems I can still be surprised. I don’t recall knowing about this movie’s existence until immediately before deciding to review it. I was trying to find something weightier since it’s been a while since I’ve done good drama, but as soon as I saw Christopher Lloyd, my decision was made.

It seems this concerns a no-rules retreat camp created by teens who don’t want to be sent away to the camps chosen by their parents. I’m not sure how much my impression that the poster wants me to think it’s “Animal House, but with teens” comes entirely from the fact that Lloyd’s character is wearing a toga. Also the girl in the swimsuit seems a bit shoehorned in I guess.

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Movies of My Yesterdays: George of the Jungle

One thing I recall about the circumstances of the George of the Jungle release was that it seemed to come out at about the same time as Disney’s Tarzan, but apparently this actually predates it by two years. Given what I know about animation production schedules, Tarzan was probably already in the works when they started on this, but just came out later. I now recall that it wasn’t until the direct to video sequel that they were able to reference Tarzan.

However, this was definitely part of a wave of Jay Ward cartoon adaptations made in the late 90s. As much as I like 2000’s The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (so much so that I did a redub of a sequence for college mainly because I thought there was a bad music decision that I wanted to fix. How did it go? Okay enough.) and Dudley Do-Right, I think this was the best of the bunch. Though it’s possible that’s just because I never saw any of the George of the Jungle cartoon, so I don’t know how badly it was changed. That didn’t stop me from loving the Inspector Gadget movie though.

George of the Jungle.
Mandeville Films 1997.

Fabulously wealthy San Francisco heiress Ursula Stanhope has come to Burundi to explore the jungle, but is surprised when her equally rich but pompous fiance Lyle Van De Groot tracks her down and joins her expedition, insisting they should return home as soon as possible for the wedding. Lyle has been accompanied by two poachers who are after the White Ape, a legend of the Burundi jungle that could get them a fortune. In reality, the White Ape is actually George, a human who was lost in the jungle as a baby and raised by apes, and now is the King of the Jungle. When Lyle and Ursula are attacked by a lion, Lyle tries to abandon Ursula and run away, and George swings in to save her, bringing her back to his treehouse to help her recover from the shock. When Lyle and the poachers find Ursula and George’s treehouse, there’s an altercation that leads to Lyle accidentally shooting George, leading Ursula to bring him back to San Francisco for medical care. Having seen Lyle for the selfish coward that he is, next to the humble and gorgeous hero George, Ursula now finds herself with questions about her future, much to her status-obsessed parents’ chagrin.

Maybe this is again because I’m not familiar with the source material, but it still feels like this movie more naturally adapted to modern styles than the other cartoon movies I named above. It’s a cartoonish slapstick farce with a lot of self-aware commentary, sometimes even not delivered through the narrator, but it meshes with the 90s writing aesthetic somehow. George is a timeless klutzy hero, but Dudley is a relic of a different era, and Rocky and Bullwinkle spend their entire movie commenting on how they’re 30 years behind. The narration is really the only anachronism I can find in this movie, and the Narrator is a comic character in his own right.

There were things I was expecting in this movie that I guess I was remembering from the sequel. This is entirely in the jungle and in San Francisco (because the Americans won’t be interested if we don’t take the hero to America), except for a tag with Ape in Las Vegas, and I think I was remembering more scenes in other locations that are probably from the plot of that movie.

I still like this movie as much as I did then. The naked product placement was more noticeable now, but it didn’t bother me because it was often the joke. This is my favorite Brendan Fraser movie, and he did some great work in the 90s and 00s. George of the Jungle is a friend to you and me.

Three Husbands

Three Husbands. Gloria Films 1951.

Before watching the movie:

The premise as I’ve seen it summarized sounds like it could be just a framing device. A recently deceased prankster’s final wish on the afterlife’s doorstep is to watch his three poker buddies’ reactions to receiving letters from him stating that he’s had an affair with all three of their wives. They can’t even be sure if it’s the truth or one last prank. It sounds like the prankster could set the scene for us and then drop out, or mainly appear in flashbacks, but mostly this seems to be a bowl of jealously-fueled comedy arguing.

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Sergeant Deadhead

Sergeant Deadhead. Alta Vista Productions 1965.

Before watching the movie:

From how hard the movie is trying to be sold as a wacky comedy, I would expect that the change that Avalon’s undergoes in space would be really wacky, like he comes back really loopy, or having switched minds with his simian copilot. At the very least, “Deadhead” suggests to me an “idiot comes turns smart” story, which isn’t necessarily funny. But the summary I read says that he returns with a more “aggressive” personality. That doesn’t necessarily sound funny. Maybe it’s funny because he’s aggressive like a chihuahua, overconfident in his abilities.

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Down To Earth

Down to Earth. Village Roadshow Pictures 2001.

Before watching the movie:

I don’t know what I would’ve been there to see, but I’m pretty sure I saw a trailer for this movie in the theater. I don’t think I got from the trailer that he was a comic, but they might as well make it thoroughly a Chris Rock vehicle by giving him a stand up career.

I’m interested to find out what reason the movie comes up with for why Lance can come back but not as himself.

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Movies of My Yesterdays: Blank Check

In what would have been 1995, I was a little confused at how Macauley Culkin had made two movies about having a lot of money that came out so close together. Maybe I thought Culkin was in this because of the similarity with Richie Rich, or maybe Bonsall just looks enough like Culkin that I didn’t really notice he wasn’t. In actuality, Brian Bonsall played both Andy Keaton on “Family Ties”, a show I discovered in reruns in the early 2000s, and he was the best version of Worf’s son Alexander on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”.

I think I wanted to see Blank Check sooner, but as I recall, I didn’t get to see it until a summer movie screening at the public library. I remember the inciting incident scene, and I remember “Mister Macintosh”, and not a lot else. Which is more than I can say about Richie Rich.

Preston’s older brothers are using his bedroom for their new business. His father will only tell him about the value of working hard for his money. His birthday is next week, but nobody seems to care. Carl Quigley just escaped from prison, and has a million dollars in easily-traceable bills he brings to bank manager Biderman, an old accomplice, to launder. Biderman gives him a book of temporary checks he can have his associate cash for a clean million. On the way out, Quigley runs over Preston’s bike and, in a hurry to leave the scene, signs a blank check to pay for the bike. Preston writes the check for “one million dollars” and takes it to the bank, where Biderman mistakes him for Quigley’s associate and fills his backpack with the money. In order to spend the cash he’s suddenly acquired without adults getting too suspicious, Preston creates “Mr. Macintosh”, a newly wealthy older man who just moved to town and hired Preston to help decorate his palatial home and generally have fun so that “Macintosh” can enjoy childhood vicariously through him. Obviously, Quigley wants his money, and the FBI is very interested in this Macintosh person.

I was expecting there to be an extreme suspension of disbelief required for the central conceit of “kid is spending a bunch of money”, but that was satisfactorily explained between “there’s this man you can’t meet who pays me to spend his money” and “you gave me a wad of cash so I’m going to stop questioning things”. But what actually bothered me more was that nobody seemed terribly interested in what this secretive man wanted with a random neighbor boy. When Preston’s parents realize that neither of them have ever met Macintosh, they still just shrug it off as kinda odd.

I’m also not fully comfortable with the subplot of Preston’s crush on bank teller Shay, a grown adult person who he is trying to give heart-pendant necklaces to. Shay comes to care about him as a sweet kid who’s fun to hang out with, but the closest Preston comes to getting over his crush is when he thinks she was only interested in him to get to Macintosh’s money.

This is not the big event movie I had built it up as when I was a kid. I wondered several times if it’s the kind of money that would go to theaters now, or if it might be direct to Disney Channel or a streaming platform. There’s a touch of the Home Alone style using the environment of the kid’s house against the bad guys at the climax, but it’s a very limited sequence, and I don’t think it contributed to my confusion about the casting, unless it was heavily featured in the trailers.

I don’t know if this is even a “summer movie”. It’s just a light bit of fun for kids any time. Children’s wish fulfilment stories are probably always more exciting when watching as a kid than when watching as an adult.

Juwanna Mann

Juwanna Mann. Morgan Creek Productions 2002.

Before watching the movie:

Were there more movies about men posing as women/women posing as men in the early 2000s, or does it just seem that way because that era was a cultural experiment in irreverence and boundary breaking that did not combine well?

What I would expect from a man posing as a woman to play women’s pro basketball is finding that the grandstanding style of men’s pro basketball doesn’t work in the much more technique-focused women’s league, but since he’s the protagonist of an early 2000s comedy, I’m sure his loose cannon showboating will instead be played as suddenly making women’s basketball relevant.

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Soul Plane

Soul Plane. Boz Productions 2004.

Before watching the movie:

While I’ve seen occasional mentions of the title here and there, I don’t remember this movie being a new release. I’m sure that’s because I wasn’t the target demographic and they didn’t advertise anywhere I was paying attention.

As an adult-oriented “urban comedy” from the early 2000s, this will probably not have aged well, and apparently it wasn’t well-received at the time.

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The Toxic Avenger

The Toxic Avenger.
Troma Entertainment 1984.

Before watching the movie:

I hadn’t heard of this movie until I stumbled across it on a streaming platform, but apparently it has a cult following. It’s from about 20 years later than I initially thought, but I also thought it was played straighter. This is going for satire, not camp.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the grotesque deformity the accident that gave him his super powers came from is a specific take-that to all of the superheroes and villains that got their start from chemical or nuclear accidents and end up looking amazing, or at most with a cool scar on the face, completely unlike most things that suddenly and dramatically change a human body in reality.

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Earth Girls are Easy

Earth Girls are Easy.
De Laurentiis Entertainment Group 1988.

Before watching the movie

How did I never know, or at least never have it sink in, that Jeff Goldblum is in this? Jim Carrey playing a weird alien, okay. Jeff Goldblum playing a weird alien, the potential to really let him run wild with it has massively piqued my interest.

I stayed away from this movie for a long time because I was expecting a raunchy comedy that hasn’t aged well. But now I find that it was inspired by a song by and co-written by Julie Brown, of songs like “Cause I’m A Blonde” and “The Homecoming Queen’s Got A Gun”, so it has the potential to at least not be tasteless in the way I was expecting. It’s still over 30 years old.

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