Joe Bob Briggs

Drive-In Movie Critic of Grapevine, TX

If you're gonna make a gorilla flick, the gorilla's got to party down. The gorilla's got to do something.

It's either got to eat people, or else run around solving their problems.
It's got to be either a capitalist gorilla or a communist gorilla. There's no such thing, in the movies, as a gorilla-next-door.

Or at least there wasn't such a thing before Congo, which stars a cutesy-pie little talking gorilla that smokes cigars, drinks martinis and generally does things you would expect to see in the lounge of the Mirage Hotel in Vegas.

Come to think of it, the whole movie looks like the lounge of the Mirage Hotel in Vegas, complete with an African jungle that looks like it was built for a Wayne Newton music video.

Fortunately, the jungle is inhabited by vicious flesh-eating apes in kabuki makeup who occasionally go berserk and eat a character actor.

These are not to be confused with the friendly gorilla clan down the road that refuses to participate in the mauling of humans.

You see, back in King Solomon's time, there were these apes that were bred like pit bulldogs. They were supposed to guard the diamond mines, only they turned on their breeders and smashed them to bits.

Then they stood guard for centuries, waiting on an expedition from an evil Houston telecommunications company that showed up in 1995 so they could rip out their guts and toss the expedition leader onto the bone pile.

But the apes meet their match in the form of a sensitive feminist ex-fiancee-of-the-dead-leader who teams up with a University of California gorilla-research scientist and a sleazy Romanian con man posing as a philanthropist who talks exactly like Yakov Smirnoff.

You see, the scientist is taking Amy the ape back to the woods where she belongs. Meanwhile, the con man wants to find the lost city of Solomon and they're all led by this hip African guide who can escort them through various revolutionary armies and explain when the local volcano is likely to erupt and...er...uh...I don't really know what happens in this movie.

Way too much plot getting in the way of the story.
Anyhow, Amy the gorilla is pretty obviously some guy in a gorilla suit, and the little strap-on machine they use to make her talk looks like an electronic room deodorizer from Radio Shack.

The orangutan that starred with Clint Eastwood in Every Which Way But Loose had a whole lot more personality. Heck, come to think of it, Marlene Dietrich put on a gorilla suit to sing "Hot Voodoo" in "Blonde Venus" and she had a lot more personality.

So that leaves us with the Killer Kabuki Apes in the nine-billion-dollar special-effects climax, full of volcanic eruptions, various acts of close-up ape terrorism and Day-Glo lava fields pouring through the lobby of the Mirage Hotel.

Please. These apes look like they've been doing too much coke.
You can SMELL these apes. It's like being attacked by a shag rug with puke on it.

These are not Stanley Kubrick 2001 Symbolic Apes.
These are not Roddy McDowall Planet of the Apes smarter-than-we-are apes.
These are not even as convincing as when Bela Lugosi turned himself into "The Ape Man."

These are more like Bedtime for Bonzo apes on speed.
Once again, there are only two ways to make a gorilla movie.
The first, in the immortal words of Dino DeLaurentiis: "When monkey die, everybody cry."

This is the lovable ape, the misunderstood ape, the heroic ape.
The second is to make the apes pure-dee MEAN. "Link," "Project X," "Monkey Shines"--shoot the gorilla up with some kind of loosy-goosey genetic DNA brain serum and send him to Cleveland.

This movie doesn't do either. The lead ape is just sappy, especially when you imagine her as a midget in a Disney World costume. And the killer apes are just used to eat minor supporting players and shorten the running time.

I'll put it this way.
I'd rather watch Goliathon.
Seventeen dead bodies. No breasts. Eyeball rolls.
One exploding car. One truck hijacking. One revolution.
One ground-to-air missile attack. One exploding plane.
Monkey-mating noises. Snake-hacking. Torrential rainstorm, with Cloudy Lens.
Gorilla-Cam. Chanting tribe, with chest-pounding, but without "Umgawa.''

Whitewater rafting. Endless backpacking scenes, the kind where you say, "Isn't the cinematography great?"

Giant hippo attack.
Forty-seven thousand rounds of automatic-weapon fire.
Diamonds that look like cheap quartz crystals from roadside tourist stands in Hot Springs, Ark.

Gratuitous hot-air balloon.
Kung Fu. Molten-lava Fu. Ape Fu. Laser-gun Fu.
Drive-In Academy Award nominations for...

* Joe Don Baker, as the evil Houston tycoon who bashes in TV screens when he's not sending people on death missions, for saying, "I need those diamonds, Dr. Ross!"

* Tim Curry, as the fake Romanian philanthropist who says, "That gorilla knows where it is!" and deciphers hieroglyphics in his spare time.

* Dylan Walsh, as the gorilla-loving scientist who quotes William Butler Yeats to explain his motivations and gets leeches on his private parts.

* Laura Linney, as the ex-CIA operative who wields a mean laser rifle.
* And Ernie Hudson, as the wise guy wise-guide.
Two stars.
Joe Bob says check it out.

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