Mighty Joe Young (1998) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

Mighty Joe Young is a total surprise to anyone expecting a light-hearted, soft, kid-centric retelling of the 1949 film. Even though the film was produced by Walt Disney Pictures this is a rip-roaring adventure tale that will entertain adults, teens, and children alike. Director Ron Underwood has made a magnificent film that features groundbreaking special effects and a vigorous spirit.

The legendary Joe, a playful, smart fifteen-foot tall gorilla, and his lifelong best friend Jill Young (Charlize Theron) have grown up together in the remote mountains of Central Africa. When Joe’s peaceful existence is shattered by poachers, Jill and zoologist Gregg O’Hara (Bill Paxton) rescue their innocent friend and move him to the safety of an animal conservancy in sunny California. But Joe’s safety is short-lived. No longer a myth, his notoriety makes him a target for an enemy from his past-a ruthless big-game hunter (Rade Sherbedgia) who will do anything to capture mighty Joe.

This overlooked Disney flick is one of their better efforts from the 1990’s. Sure, Joe didn’t make the kind of money that Flubber or 101 Dalmations did, but it’s a far more satisfying film than either of those titles. The original film was an RKO productions knock-off of King Kong and this version towers over Roland Emerich’s Godzilla, which proved to be all hype and no substance. Charlize Theron and Bill Paxton have a nice screen chemistry that is served up in a unsexualized kid-friendly manner. Mighty Joe Young is a mighty fun time at the movies.

Director: Ron Underwood
Stars: Bill Paxton, Charlize Theron, Rade Šerbedžija, Naveen Andrews, Regina King, David Paymer

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