Mighty Joe Young (1998)

Directed by Ron Underwood
Written by Mark Rosenthal & Lawrence Konner, based on the screenplay by Ruth Rose, which was based on a story by Merian C. Cooper
Starring Bill Paxton, Charlize Theron, David Paymer, Regina King, Naveen Andrews

My Advice: Wait for MST3K.

RKO Pictures makes a return of sorts, thanks to Disney, with this unfortunate remake of their 1949 film, and boy, they should have left well enough alone.  Orphaned on the same night, Joe (not played by Dennis Miller despite what his show's credits say) and Jill (Theron) grow up together and learn to protect one another in their jungle paradise.  That is, until jungle guide Pindi (Andrews) and animal finder O'Hara (Paxton) go in search of Joe, who apparently has some legendary multisyllabic name that I can't remember.  Once paradise is breached, there's only one thing to do--go to America.  That would have been my first choice.

Don't get me wrong, the film started out better than I expected.  An initial sequence where Joe is chased by Paxton and company and the gorilla outsmarts them all is quite entertaining, and the Joe effects are actually quite good.  However, once Joe winds up in America, it's all downhill from there.  I understand Paxton was pleased to have the lead again in a film, which is odd, since Joe is the obvious lead, and Paxton's role in America is to stand around, look concerned, drive whatever vehicle needs driving and also desperately attempt to make out with Theron.  Well, wouldn't you?  Anyway, the plot becomes more and more trite with bad guys out to turn Joe into Joeburgers, the conservation administration who don't understand Joe or Theron, lots of vehicles getting banged up lest we have time to consider how silly all of this is, and a blazing climax in a carnival that becomes more impossibly overblown and melodramatic than anyone would think possible.  Just when you think they can't milk anymore emotion out of the scene, you're wrong.  And if you see this film, ask yourself this question--do carnivals normally hose down everything with gasoline so they'll burn easily?  If the places were that flammable, who would go?

And for those you who are concerned that I'm being too hard on what's being touted as a kid's movie--this film has electrocution, animal brutality, shooting deaths, children in danger, and Joe stepping on and snapping someone's leg with a huge crunch.  Portraying this as a children's movie (despite the PG rating) is a mistake, since really little ones are going to be completely freaked out by the whole ordeal.  And believe me, an ordeal it is.  Never get into a movie where you play opposite an animal, right?  They should have listened.