Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1998. RKO Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures. Screenplay by Mark Rosenthal, Lawrence Konner, based on a story by Merian C. Cooper and a screenplay by Ruth Rose. Cinematography by Donald Peterman, Oliver Wood. Produced by Ted Hartley, Tom Jacobson. Music by James Horner. Production Design by Michael Corenblith. Costume Design by Molly Maginnis. Film Editing by Paul Hirsch. Academy Awards 1998.
In this remake of the forties classic, Bill Paxton plays an L.A. Zoo animal researcher who travels to Africa and witnesses a wonder: a fifteen-foot gorilla named Joe. Soon after a hazardous meeting with the great ape, he also meets Joe’s best friend, a beautiful blonde woman (Charlize Theron) who grew up with the gorilla after they both lost their mothers to poachers twelve years earlier. Needing a safe home for her beloved friend, Theron agrees to take Joe to Los Angeles with Paxton in order to house him in a giant facility there, but trouble is sure to follow when the dirty poacher (Rade Serbedzija) who killed their mothers shows up at the same time. This thrilling family film is a raucous good time for the whole family, featuring eyepopping visual effects and amiable characters who go on a very fun adventure. The production values are all top-notch, even though the performances lack a lot of credibility (Theron hasn’t been this awkward since). Through a combination of five or six different effects methods, the massive Joe comes across with believable strength and a lovable personality (think King Kong crossed with a Robert Munch book).