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.

The Sign of Zorro

The Sign of Zorro.
Walt Disney Pictures 1958.

Before watching the movie:

I previously reviewed The Mask of Zorro, but where that is a reboot, this appears to be the actual origin story. I can kind of see now that maybe the other movie didn’t want to reintroduce audiences to a hero who can do the things he does mainly because he’s wealthy. We accept it in Batman because Batman has never been that far away from popular culture, but Zorro’s time in our collective imagination has mostly passed. So instead of a Bruce Wayne story, the reboot gave audiences Terry McGinnis. But I’m not here to talk about “Mask”.

I’m expecting a pretty straightforward classic adventure story, where the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad, and right is restored in the end.

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Good Burger

Good Burger. Paramount Pictures 1997.

Before watching the movie:

I always thought this was the movie of a series, but it turns out that this is the expansion of a recurring sketch from All That. Keenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell were Keenan And Kel on a completely different (eponymous) show, and Keenan’s character in this movie was not in the All That sketches. All of this just goes to demonstrate that while lots of kids my age were watching All That and Keenan and Kel, I didn’t have Nickelodeon.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Limelight Entertainment 1990.

Before watching the movie:

I am broadly aware of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, but I was never all that into it. I briefly thought I was going to watch the cartoon series, but I was given a parental directive to choose one violent show between TMNT and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and I chose the latter. Then a few weeks later I abruptly decided the whole premise of MMPR was silly and dropped it.

Apparently there’s a well-known easter egg that in one telling of the Turtles’ origin story, the radioactive ooze that made them was also involved in making Daredevil. That’s pretty neat. That will not be relevant to this movie.

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The Avengers

The Avengers. Warner Bros. 1998.

Before watching the movie:

What can be said about this big-budget adaptation of a beloved, long-lasting sci-fi/fantasy/action/adventure franchise? This movie that brought people’s childhood fantasies to the big screen in an ambitious project that had never been done before? The first time moviegoers assembled for The Avengers?

Of course, I mean the 1998 adaptation of the British ITV series from the 60s. What else could I be referring to?

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Scooby-Doo

Scooby-Doo. Mosaic Media Group 2002.

Before watching the movie:

As someone who was not a fan of Scooby-Doo in the early 2000s, my main impression of this was that, if there was a right way to make a live action Scooby-Doo movie, this wasn’t it. The characters looked overly stylized, and the CGI dog was neither cartoon nor real, just a CGI mess.

I’ve since enjoyed some of the Mystery Incorporated reconstructive take on the franchise, and I have enough familiarity with it to know this probably at least isn’t the worst version.

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McHale’s Navy

McHale's Navy. Universal Pictures 1997.
McHale’s Navy. Universal Pictures 1997.

Before watching the movie: This looks way too similar to Down Periscope. Though that’s probably just because of the closeness of subject matter. And tropes of 90s poster design. Some months ago, when I learned of the existence of this movie and queued it, I knew I wouldn’t be able to appraise it well without a better appreciation of the TV show, so I recorded and watched a handful of episodes. I’m sure the rest of the boat was distinctly characterized if one paid attention over the course of the series, but really only four characters stood out to me. So I’m already not too bothered with the fact that they clearly seem to have changed that lineup to move with the times. However, that would just leave a shell of legacy over a story that would otherwise be its own thing. Continue reading

Coneheads

Coneheads. Paramount Pictures 1993.
Coneheads. Paramount Pictures 1993.

Before watching the movie:

Have I seen this before?  There’s something special in my memory about Coneheads, but I can’t quite place it. I’m fairly sure that I had a friend in Kindergarten or first grade who talked about it fondly, but the only concrete recollection I have is that there were a few clips of it in a Paramount promotional montage on a couple of tapes I liked to watch a lot. And more recently, I’ve seen some of the original sketches. Since my memories are so hazy, and there are a few alternative options, I’m going to conclude for now that I haven’t seen it before, and if I did, it was so long ago that nothing really stuck and my view will still be fresh. However, in the interest of transparency, I’m making this decision public.

While not as widely talked about as other Saturday Night Live spinoffs, this seems to have a pretty positive reputation. The concept certainly offers room for a full-fledged plot and lends itself to a higher budget. In fact, it may be so much more of a movie concept than a sketch concept that it becomes hard to remember it got its start on SNL, like Blues Brothers.

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Wild Wild West

Wild Wild West. Warner Bros. Et al. 1999.

Before watching the movie:

I promised a Leslie Nielsen film this week, but the library didn’t come through for me yet, so here’s this. I’ll see Spy Hard when I can get it.

I’ve been told this is not a good film. Moreover, that it only did as well as it did at the box office because of underage teens sneaking into the South Park movie. It has Will Smith, action, humor, and steam-powered mechs in the Old West, so it can’t be so very disappointing as all that.

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Mission: Impossible

Mission Impossible. Paramount Pictures 1996.

Before watching the movie:

Add this to the list of “how did I let this wait 14 years?” This movie is action, suspense, and big-name stars. It draws upon a hit TV show with an iconic theme. It is the Hollywood spy movie.

I have to admit I’ve never seen an episode of the series, so I can’t appraise it on that level.

Also, back then, nobody ever thought Tom Cruise would go publicly insane.

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