|George of the Jungle (2000)|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 12 December 2000|
Warning: no matter what you do, it will likely take you a minimum of seven days to get that "bong, bong, bong, bong" theme music out of your head after watching 'George of the Jungle.' It blasts its way up through your viscera in Chapter 2, takes hold with further repetition and thereafter can be revived by a single tap of a pen. If you grew up loving Jay Ward's inspired cartoons, including "Rocky & Bullwinkle," "Fractured Fairy Tales," et al, you'll probably have a great time with this live-action version of his animated series about a Tarzan-like hero who fearlessly swings through his leafy lair on vines, despite repeated collisions with trees.
Director Sam Weisman and writers Dan Olsen and Audrey Wells, working from Olsen's story, have concocted a look at George's early years that is surprisingly faithful in tone to Ward's original work. It is perfectly silly and sweet, keeping all the great loony touches--like the ever-reassuring, blithely smartass narrator--while adding the dash of soul that good human actors provide.
George (played by the ever-amiable and extremely buff Brendan Fraser) grows up under the care of his very civilized friend Ape, enjoying his jungle home until he meets his first human woman, heiress Ursula (Leslie Mann). While two conniving jungle guides attempt to capture the articulate Ape, George struggles with his confused feelings for Ursula. Can George ever be happy in the big city? Will Ursula give in to the call of the wild? Will the evil porter win the argument he's having with the narrator?
Like its cartoon predecessor, the feature 'George of the Jungle' never indulges in a cliché without finding a way to comment on it cleverly and the characters' frequent asides to the audience are extremely funny. Much of the film's charm lies in George's attitude: when he cheerfully explains to Ursula that despite his frequent tree crashes, he never feels stupid, it borders on being downright inspirational in its thoroughly cockeyed way. Director Weisman creates a bright, appropriately cartoonish look throughout, his timing is deft and the filmmakers display a sense of affection for Ward's brand of lunacy that almost spills from the screen. For viewers who enjoy this sort of parody, 'George of the Jungle' is deliriously good fun.