Director: Frank Marshall
Starring: Dylan Walsh, Laura Linney, Ernie Hudson
Tim Curry, Grant Heslov, Joe Don Baker, Bruce Campbell
Delroy Lindo, John Hawkes, Joe Pantoliano, James Karen
I didn’t hate Congo this time around, and that’s about the highest praise it deserves. This Crichton book turned Marshall movie should be so much better than it is; strong novel, nice cast, cool concept, fun adventure. But compare it to the other great films of its year and it’s embarrassing: Braveheart, Dead Man Walking, Mr. Holland’s Opus, The Usual Suspects, 12 Monkeys, Apollo 13, Rob Roy, Casino, Nixon, Sense and Sensibility, Crimson Tide, Se7en, The American President, Toy Story, Pocahontas, Babe. I guess my point is that everyone involved should have been …better? …and that this film shouldn’t suck. Watching it again, this time around I was at least entertained, and I thought there were parts that somehow worked, despite how shitty the majority was.
A communications billionaire, Mr. Travis, sends his son into the interior jungles of Africa to retrieve rare diamonds that may be in a volcano there, and may power lasers that can craft the world’s newest technologies. When his son goes missing and a strange video emerges, Travis sends in his right hand woman, Karen Ross, to assess the situation, find the diamonds, and get the hell out of Africa. She, in turn, piggybacks on an expedition that’s headed there anyway, a mission to return a female gorilla to her home. But this ape is special, she can speak using sign language, and, oddly enough, her presence might be the only thing that keeps the team alive, as other gorilla’s emerge who are not as friendly, and a mystery rises surrounding an ancient civilization, a dangerous mine, and those who protect it.
Crichton is fun, we all know his works, and this kind of jump-the-shark story is right up his alley. He somehow makes those far-fetched ideas fly though, his books are cool, but the movie versions aren’t always great, excepting Jurassic Park, of course. Don’t ever watch Timeline; phenomenal book, absolutely horrendous film. But I digress. Congo is exciting, it’s a nice arc, it would make for a good read, but it sure doesn’t make for a good watch, not done this cheaply, anyway. This movie should have been better; the cast, the author, the director, the action, the fun. But it’s mostly a crappy job by all, bad execution after bad execution until the whole thing feels like a joke. There are moments to be enjoyed; Ernie Hudson for sure, all the big names that pop up, the safari, the mystery, the intensity of the adventure. But, overall, there’s a mood of amateurism that’s near impossible to shake, and that’s what you’ll remember after the credits roll.
My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆