George! George! George of the Jungle! Watch out for that–
George, you dumb fuck. Can’t you look straight ahead when swinging? You deserve it. George of the Jungle is the live-action remake of the beloved cartoon from the sixties of the same name.
This time, it’s up to Brendan Fraser to play a substantially more ripped version of his idiot character from Encino Man who’s also known as the King of the Jungle.
This adaptation actually stays true to the source material in myriad ways: The character “Ape” is brilliantly captured by the talented John Cleese in voiceover, the dialogue is eerily similar to the show’s, and most importantly, they nailed the narrator role with a sound-alike in the form of Keith Scott.
The plot revolves around Ursula (the beautiful Leslie Mann) as she travels into the jungle with her shitty boyfriend Lyle Van de Groot (played by a delightful Thomas Hayden Church). They get separated, and Ursula is saved by George (…of the Jungle; did you think it was anyone else?).
Lyle pusses out during this rescue and has to make up a story that he fought a “lion” so his manhood could remain intact.
He then hires a tracking team (two of which are only out for the prized “White Ape” [whom ends up being George]), and together, they traverse the jungle in search of Ursula. Meanwhile, George and Ursula grow feelings for each other, and she brings him back to the city (San Francisco), and so he tries to blend into their world.
Lyle gets arrested and jailed in an African prison, and the two trackers set their money-grubbing sights on the talking Ape instead. Ape sends the Tookie bird to fly aaaaaall the way to San Francisco to alert George that he’s in trouble.
In the end, the idiot jungle man gets the rich, intelligent woman from the City by the Bay, and she moves to the jungle to marry him. The plot isn’t what you’re all after, am I right?
The Narrator was one of the first examples of Fourth Wall breaking that I have ever experienced (aside from Zach in Saved By the Bell). Aside from Crossovers, Breaking the Fourth Wall is one of my favorite film tropes out there.
The Narrator definitely gets the majority of the credit here, as he interacts with the characters, and he even sets up a line of exposition, only to have the characters repeat it back. It’s almost like he wanted more lines for himself, so he aped them from an unsuspecting cast. I can almost picture the behind the scenes struggle that made it into the actual film, but I know better than that. It was just a cleverly written bit in that regard.
What’s the franchise like?
This is the prime example of the downside of this question. Firstly (and on a more positive note), GotJ was based on the short-lived cartoon series. But the real issue arises when we look to the Direct-to-video sequel to the Brendan Fraser film, George of the Jungle 2.
*shudder* It’s pretty sad when Brendan Fraser AND Leslie Mann didn’t want to come back.
There was also another short-lived animated series in 2007, which tried too hard to look “appealing” to kids by essentially aping the style of Phineas and Ferb.
Where/ when did I first see it?
I first watched this on home video in 1998. See kids, VHS tapes used to take six months or longer to arrive after the theater premiere–
–VHS tapes were the things movies were recorded on so that we could pop them into our VCRs. Heaven forbade you if you forgot to rewind it from your last viewing! It would take several minutes to get to the beginning of the film. There were no chapter selection screens then.
How does it hold up?
So it’s campy, it’s child-oriented, and it’s not chock full of adult-laden subtext as many other children’s films are these days. But not every film has to be for everyone, and you can’t fault it for that. There are definitely some suggestive lines of dialogue, but the scale tips towards the youth here.
The visual effects are mid-90s splendor, in that when it’s practical; it’s great! When it’s actual computer imagery however, it’s horrifying. This was the dark times for CGI, and we mustn’t forget how far we’ve come.
A few things to Note:
Aside from John Cleese, the supporting cast is also very talented. Ursula’s mother is played by famed actress, Holland Taylor, whose biggest role is sadly Alan and Charlie’s mother on Two and a Half Men. A great trivia question: who played George’s son in the Direct-to-video sequel?
I imagine them talking about their time at the GotJ factory, swapping stories while between shoots on Two and a Half Men. That kind of interaction is exciting to me. Like when Justin Timberlake ran up to Ryan Gosling during the 89th Oscars opening song “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” They have a long history together, and it’s cool to see them reconnect. Wait, I’m living vicariously through these people. Man, do I need more friends?!
The film also has former Shaft lead, Richard Roundtree in a supporting role. That was something that I missed while watching this in my youth. All I knew about him then was that he was Shaft, and that he was one of the few men to ever have breast cancer. I had hoped that I didn’t get cancer, but then I did so… yeah. Maybe, that means– Oh man, I HOPE I’m never friends with Ryan Gosling…
And finally, of note is Abraham Benrubi, whom you may not know by name, but he was one of the longest cast members of the hit medical drama, ER, playing Jerry Markovic.
Here, he played “Thor.” No, not that one, I’m sure he wishes though.
The Narrator, hands down. This disembodied voice was crucial to the overall comedic elements that didn’t include a man smashing headfirst into a tree.
My favorite lines from the movie are in his dialogue. “At a very expensive waterfall set…”
George gets shot at one point, and the Narrator chimes in: “Whew! Okay, kids, let’s settle down and review the important information. Lyle is a big doofus. Poor George was really shot, but can’t die because, let’s face it, he’s the hero.”
When George is trying on clothes in front of a three panel mirror: “Later, in the men’s department, after discovering his long lost brothers, the jungle king was pleased to find he looked pretty good in Armani.”
George (to camera): Pretty darn good.
- The Narrator is the true hero of this story.
- Thor really let himself go while traveling the Nine Realms.
- At the time, Leslie Mann and Brendan Fraser were above the sequel, while Thomas Haden Church was not. How the times have changed… BRENDAN.
Where can you see it?
Check out George of the Jungle on CanIStream.It?