I haven’t been able to laugh at the presidency in years. At least, not as the product of something other than a mixture of horror, anger, and embarrassment. Washington/the Federal Government lately hasn’t been a source of cynical guffaws. But things have changed and there’s room to be relieved and somewhat relaxed again. For the foreseeable future, we’re returning to, at worst, garden variety corruption and only casual imperialism.
This movie came to me in a presidential-themed movie collection that I found when looking for a disk-based replacement to an old VHS copy of Dave, a favorite I’m looking forward to returning to soon, and could get a Movies of My Yesterdays if “soon” is not all that soon.
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.
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.
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.
My strongest memory of this movie being in the world was the giant poster on the side of a building at King’s Island for years. I don’t think it had anything to do with anything at the park, it was just a 50-foot poster nobody bothered to take down across the three to five years my visits were spread across. (Update: apparently they named their head to head roller coaster Face/Off, until Paramount sold the park and the new owner debranded it. I didn’t ride many of the coasters there.)
I later learned the movie is about a good guy and a bad guy trading faces for… reasons, don’t think too much about it. I’m not sure which actor starts as which character, because of course both play both. I’ve heard that Cage as the terrorist gets eccentrically creepy in the way he’s famous for now.
I usually avoid sequels here, and yes, it’s direct to video, but this one means more to me than the original Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. I don’t remember if it’s the one I saw first, but it’s the one I saw most back then. I knew it was a sequel to “Kids”, but at first I didn’t realize that there was another one in between the two (Honey, I Blew Up The Kid, which is about the toddler getting bigger and bigger until it gets into “Attack of the 50-foot _____” territory).
This one, and the TV series that apparently came out the same year, but doesn’t seem to be related, came to me right at the time when I was not only in a period of discovering my own new favorites for what seemed like the first time, but also particularly interested in invention, and so stories starring the wacky tinkerer Wayne Szalinski and his quirky inventions especially appealed to me.
Years after making his name with the Shrink Machine, Wayne Szalinski has founded Szalinski Labs, a “throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks” R&D company, which he operates as the president of and his brother Gordon heads development projects for. Wayne’s son Adam has no interest in Wayne’s passion for science and would much rather go to baseball camp instead of the math summer camp Wayne has picked out for him. The family is preparing for a weekend where Wayne and Gordon’s wives Diane and Patti go on a vacation and Gordon as well as his and Patti’s kids Jenny and Mitch will be staying with Wayne and Adam. Just as the weekend begins, Wayne has Gordon help him haul a gigantic tiki sculpture that Diane hates up to the attic, where he intends to use the Shrink Machine one last time before it goes to the Smithsonian to shrink it to pocket size. But a mishap with the machine also shrinks Wayne and Gordon, and soon after, Diane and Patti get shrunk too. Returning from an errand to find no parents in the house, the kids come to the obvious conclusion: house party.
Much like Home Alone 2, I think the success of this movie comes from delivering more of what made the original interesting. As I recall, “Kids” is mostly about the shrunken kids spending the weekend crossing the backyard, which is now a harsh jungle from their perspective. While that story was more about surviving in unforgiving nature, this story is set entirely in the house, making even more familiar household objects into an alien landscape for the parents to navigate. There’s also the added angle that the parents are able to observe what their kids are doing when they think they’re unsupervised, and so the dramatic irony is much richer than “where are the missing kids? Right out the back door!”
Of course in the third act, after things get too out of hand for the kids, they start to display the ways in which they were raised right after all. It’s a pretty standard trope, especially for Adam having some of Wayne’s science knowledge rub off on him after all, but I’m impressed now that the culmination of Jenny’s story is that when the boy she has a crush on gets her alone and forces a kiss on her, she pushes him away and tells him off for not asking. For 1997, that seems like a rare storytelling choice.
I have no complaints about the effects. There’s some things that I can’t tell if it’s good puppetry or very good CGI, but considering that it’s the late 90s and a direct to video budget, it’s probably puppetry. Sometimes the greenscreen compositing is a little obvious, but that’s hardly ever a solved problem even today, and it doesn’t affect my enjoyment of the story that they basically have a choice between decent compositing and very good but obvious oversize sets. When dealing with the world on a much smaller scale, I’m not sure it’s possible to make things look real, because it will either be more detailed than we’re used to or less detailed than we expect.
This is still a lot of fun for a direct to video family movie. It’s aged incredibly well and possibly aside from Gordon and Mitch’s actors seeming like Wayne Knight and Jonathan Taylor Thomas stand-ins, it feels almost timeless. It’s nice to watch a movie with nostalgia value and not end up disillusioned.
It occurs to me that I’ve only seen Joe Pesci in Home Alone. So here’s another movie he made spoofing his typecasting as a criminal, only a much more hard-edged one than the family friendly Wet Bandits. He plays an actual mobster who just happens to get caught up in hijinks because his bag accidentally got switched with someone else’s bag at the airport.
I think that this kind of poster isn’t one to make stuff up for the symbolism of it, so maybe there’s an actual vulture involved in the hijinks? That seems as wacky as the tone that seems to be implied.
Ah, 1997. A simpler time when the President of the United States could recognize and deal with a Russian threat.
It’s pretty clear that this is trying to be in the spirit of the Jack Ryan movies Harrison Ford was in, but even though apparently in the books Jack Ryan spent time as the US President, this is not a Jack Ryan story.
Every time I think I understand what this movie is, I go looking for something to verify that and I come up with more confusing information. I think I can safely say that the main character is a recently deceased man recruited by demonic forces whose main internal conflict comes from coming to decide this work isn’t right. I’m not clear on much of anything else. Except this isn’t as similar to Blade as I thought. Every still I’m being presented looks like it’s from a different movie.
I know pretty much nothing about this movie. I am informed that the premise involves the main character faking a fiance for apparent life stability to get promoted at work, which I hope gets a little more justified, because anywhere else will look at your job as the sign of how stable your life is. Interesting to note that this 90s boss wants a female employee to be engaged though, since only a few decades earlier marriage was seen as a career-ending move for women.
I will also note that the handwritten-style title, particularly when displayed in white, strongly reminds me of Friends, which I wouldn’t doubt was intentional, this being a late 90s movie starring a Friends alum.
I guess before just now I didn’t know anything but the title. So apparently a ship that was lost in a black hole has mysteriously come back, and the people who go investigate discover that it brought Something back with it. It seems to basically be a horror story with sci-fi trappings, so I wonder how much it’s indebted to Alien, when I was picturing something more like The Fifth Element or The Black Hole (three films I have yet to see as well). I suspect the main reason I have it connected to The Fifth Element in my head is because of similar looming heads posters and proximity of release dates, but also possibly they were stored close to each other in a friend’s collection. As a tense horror film, I don’t know how much to expect as far as visual and practical effects, and the only name I recognize among the top billing is Laurence Fishburne. So I don’t have much of any foundation for expectations here. Continue reading →