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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Retro Review: Congo (1995)

Cast: Laura Linney, Dylan Walsh, Ernie Hudson, Tim Curry, Bruce Campbell
Genre: Action-Adventure
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $152 million

Plot: When an expedition to the African Congo ends in disaster, a new team is assembled to find out what went wrong

'Um Congo'

A cross between Gorillas In The Mist, Mighty Joe Young and Jurassic Park with a tone echoing Indiana Jones, Congo is sadly not memorable and nor is it very entertaining to sit through. The film was directed by Frank Marshall whose other notable feature films are Arachnophobia & Alive. The humongous success of Jurassic Park in its feature length adaption prompted Universal Studios to snap up the rights to Congo

Congo sees a walking, talking & fake gorilla (anyone who thinks that gorilla is real and can speak the way she does needs to think again), who is having nightmares trying to return to her home with the help of trainers, Peter & Richard. Later on, the team finds themselves ambushed by the rampaging killer apes.

Congo was another one of Michael Critchton's novels to be turned into a film & joins the likes of Jurassic Park sequel The Lost World (which was a tad underwhelming), Rising Sun (which wasn't so good), Sphere (which was okay by me) & Disclosure (panned by critics, and yet was a film I found enjoyable). All of which occurred during the 1990s. With Congo, though it is lauded as a terrible film in every single aspect by many, this was never one of those films destined to be nominated for Golden Globes or Academy Awards. At the same time, with a more efficient script and A-list established actors and actresses in place of Dylan Walsh and Laura Linney amongst others, this would have gave the movie a further & much needed boost. 

But what we have instead is something that what should have been an insightful movie, the silly performances by Tim 'sesame cake eating' Curry and Amy the Gorilla put paid to all that & the foreign accents are, at times, grating to hear. The script is barren and thoroughly mediocre in its execution. At least the Peter & Amy relationship is a little cute and one that doesn't descend into creepiness or being gross. 

Congo feels inept in places, the scenes with Walsh interacting with the fake gorilla and with an actor wearing a gorilla costume, didn't feel genuine enough to me. Amy the Gorilla isn't real, yes I know it's some person in a gorilla costume and although the animals can talk thing makes far more sense in an animated series or film, is something I do buy, I don't buy the idea of a talking gorilla and the irritating computerised voice going ''Amy Pretty, Amy Hungry'' was enough to drive me around the bend. In fact, all of the gorillas are just actors in suits and they look and come across as not being very convincing and unrealistic as gorillas. 

The way this film was set up, its ambience is so conflicting it tries to come across as being a serious movie - and yet it has moments and scenes where it tries to be fun, when really it feels rather corny. & despite the special effects, the story is so boring and lethargic and there was nothing about it that was engaging. The way it is conceived doesn't make much sense, either. Congo is a film that not one that should be avoided; rather it is a film that everyone has to see and watch for themselves to realise how not to do an big screen adaptation of a book.  

Even if it isn't and wasn't intentionally serious or it is supposed to be light-hearted and a joke, the fact that Michael Crichton novels are hardly humourous stuff, its light tone throws this movie off. And at almost 2 hours long, this film with its bloated and bland story, is practically overkill. 

Final Verdict:

Hardly humourous and amusing when it tries to be, but also the direction by Frank Marshall is too dreary, lacklustre and monotonous and lacking in punch and feel-good moments throughout. It lacks any sort of fun to make it worthwhile and memorable. 

A version of Jurassic Park set in the African jungle, Congo is an adventure film gone wrong-o.  


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