King Kong

December, 2005, Thriller

It’s big. It’s long and noisy. As the press has endlessly noted, it’s also ridiculously expensive….yet it’s fun. Director Peter Jackson’s re-make of Marian Cooper’s 1933 chestnut feels bloated by comparison to the original, but Jackson succeeds in maintaining the odd sweetness of the original storyline, thanks largely to the work of Naomi Watts in the role that made Fay Wray famous. Much too intense for young children, this Kong extends Jackson’s reputation for eye-popping special effects. As he demonstrated so thoroughly in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the director’s capable of delivering gargantuan stories full of visually exciting, if not dramatically satisfying, content. This kind of film-making doesn’t suit everyone’s tastes, but there’s an enormous market for those who simply like to be astounded by what they see in the dark. In that regard, Kong never disappoints.

Jackson’s use of period sets and vintage appointments faithfully re-creates an era when audiences just might swallow the notion that an as-yet undiscovered islands still exist, providing the perfect opportunity for “on location” shooting of an adventure movie. When the cast and crew stumble upon one however, the inhabitants include, (in addition to the fabulously dexterous gorilla of the title) a whole host of dinosaurs, giant arachnids and assorted slimly things that surge out of the muck and mire to gobble up minor characters while scaring the hell out of everyone in the peanut gallery. Ms. Watts screams well, while Adrian Brody looks appropriately smitten as the writer who risks his life to save hers; but Jack Black unfortunately struggles to bring the right level of mendacity to his role as the conniving film director and P.T. Barnum wannabe who drags the giant ape back to New York.

The film’s small army of technical support personnel, (you can get in a quick nap during the ending credits) prove quite conclusively that contemporary animation and digital effects can trick the human eye at will; there are any number of scenes here in which it’s impossible to detect when something is really real, apparently real but staged, or merely invented out of whole cloth. Because Jackson keeps the action moving at such a brisk pace, the audience rarely has the time to dissect what they’re watching, yet at more 

than three hours in length, he tests the patience of his viewers; too many scenes run on far too long, well past the point needed to grasp what he’s trying to convey.

Ms. Watts, (21 Grams) creates a wonderful heroine; a starving actress who’s trying to make a living in vaudeville to pay the bills, she’s savvy without being jaded and makes the development of her relationship with Kong more compelling than it has any logical right to be. The rest of the cast is capable in roles that don’t require much in the way of thespian skill. 

The Verdict? Try this one only if you have (1) an entire afternoon or evening to spend and (2) a secret desire to become a kid again, if only for a few hours.

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