Mighty Joe Young Reviews
The original film was created by the same team that made the original King Kong film so you obviously have allot of similarities in plot and action sequences but I guess you gotta over look that alittle. The newer film is similar with its plot yet tweaked here and there with minor changes but its almost along the same lines, the main changes are of course the effects which do look surprisingly good for a film made in 98 with cgi of the time.
All 'Joe' sequences are pretty darn good showing allot of good hair detail including movement and that shine gorilla hair has, mixed with exceptional puppet/masks using animatronics by the legendary Rick Baker you can see why it looks so good. The cgi is the main surprise though which is really well done blending with most backgrounds pretty well, some sequences are obvious but its not bad at all, I must admit I was taken aback when viewing this again at how well it stands up today.
Its a typical Disney type film of course with cliched characters, allot of corny moments and predictable setups but the original was actually like this too so Disney have remained reasonably faithful. Its still very much a 'Kongish' film right up to the final moment and myself I didn't really like it when Joe gets loose and runs amok then saves the kid, too kong-like and mawkish at the same time but its still an above average film mainly thanks to Baker and his work.
Jill Young: Drop him, Joe.
[Joe drops him roughly and Greg passes out]
Catching this on TV, I couldn't help but continue to watch it for a while. There is nothing great about this movie, but its an entertaining kids flick.
Plus, you have Bill Paxton...I'm sorry, The Great Bill Paxton (no sarcasm, I'm just a fan of the Pax), a stunning Charlize Theron, Borris the Blade, and Sayid from Lost. Also some decent effects for the time, so good stuff all around for the most part.
Jill Young: [sees Greg coming out of the infirmary] He's walking already? Joe should have dropped him harder.
Where the original was too blasted '30s for its own good - even though it came out in '49 -, this film is too blasted live-action Disney for its own good, following that kind of classic formula close to a tee, even down to plenty of not-so kiddie material that, when broken up by that overwhelming kiddie cheese, creates a light, yet tangible lapse in tonal consistency. Still, the gap in maturity level isn't terribly massive, because even when it's not overplaying things for the kids, this script is riddled with cheesy dialogue and conventions that serve as salt for the wounds opened by an absence of subtlety. I mean, I've been calling a good couple of recent things unsubtle, and plus, this is Disney, so I shouldn't be asking for a deeply provocative dramatic brilliance, but really, this is way too much. One character after another oozes the traditional atmosphere of his or her role, particularly the villains, who are your everyday threats to animalkind, yet so wildly over-the-top that this feels like propaganda at times. Still, I must admit, that main antagonist, Rade Serbedzija, was pretty effective as a villain, because with all of his bad acting, it's hard to not hate him. Like your typical Disney live-action film, the film is overly telegraphed and predictable, and yet, also like your typical Disney live-action film, it's undeniably enjoyable. This film stands to be better, yet it also stands to be worse, what with its being overly Disneyfied, and while you shouldn't go in expecting this to be an early look at something that delivers as much as 2005's certain remake of a classic giant ape film, expect to enjoy yourself or, at the very least, be impressed by the effects.
The Joe Young effect isn't simply impressive, it's stellar, maybe not to where the Uncanny Valley is totally crossed, because even though the ape isn't a digital trick, there's only so much you can do to make a big costume look authentic, yet you'd still be hard pressed to not be bordlerine, if not completely blown away by the relative seamlessness. In this version, there's a little bit more emphasis on the giganticism and a bit of the science behind the big furball, and the effects back it up every step of the way with as much authenticity as possible, as well as seamlessly clever scene staging to really sell you on the extravagance of the gentle giant, while the particularly detailed and impressive facial effects sharply sell the emotion and tenderness of the creature. Sure, they sugar coat the beast way too much this time around to where, on paper, it's hard to believe, yet in execution, the emotion and careful detail that goes into not only the Joe Young effect, but at times, the atmosphere, more often than not transcends that. Still, no matter how sweet Joe is, that doesn't mean that he can't bust some heads, maybe not literally, like his counterpart, Mr. King "The Dino-Jaw-Breaker" Kong, but there are still plenty of thrilling moments in this film, and they're all accompanied by James Horner fantastic score that I just have to mention, becuase it has such a particularly heavy influence on the intrigue and tone; plus, it's just great music. Further charm comes from Bill Paxton and Charlize Theron, even if the former is playing himself and the latter is playing that animal-hugger role that's been done to death, especially in Disney. Still, regardless of that, our leads, as well as other members of the cast - except for Rade "The Scene-Chewer" Serbedzija - play their parts well enough to make the film, if nothing else, throughly charming. I hate to close the paragraph like this, but for the 99.99% that don't get the wrestler/boxer nickname jokes, I'm furthering my joke that Mighty Joe Young sounds like a boxing name, and I make those insanely obscure jokes because I needed to wash the taste of unsubtlety out of my mouth.
To close, it falls into too many of the conventions of your typical Disney live-action film, from the cheesy writing to the highly conventional storyline - complete with overly telegraphed characters and sometimes sigh-evoking predictability -, yet with stellar special effects to compliment the impressive action that breaks up constant charm - supplemented by a mostly colorful cast and a mentionably fabulous score by James Horner -, the revival of "Mighty Joe Young" most often transcends its extreme Disneyfication and stands as a very watchable charmer.
2.5/5 - Fair
The story, although formulaic, is actually faithful to the original storyline of the original Mighty Joe Young, but made some changes to the present time while being helped by the extraordinary special effects. The characters, on the whole, are a mixed bag. Charlize Theron did great as Jill Young and Bill Paxton did a good job as Professor Gregg O' Hara (I also liked the relationship between them), but the rest of the actors ranged from decent to so-so. There were some hilarious moments (despite it's dark and intense beginning) and some tear-jerking moments especially the ending scene where Joe, the gorilla, dies and comes back alive after saving a kid from a burning ferris wheel. It also has a lovely music score from James Horner and it's his best solid music score as a composer.
The film did become a box office bomb when it first came out in 1998, but that doesn't mean it could not be recommended to others because this is an underrated tear-jerking movie that I loved as a kid and I still love it as a young adult now. My advice: If you're looking for a movie that could leave you teary eyed, check this one out.