*** (out of 5)
December 14, 2005
Naomi Watts as ANN DARROW
Jack Black as CARL DENHAM
Adrien Brody as JACK DRISCOLL
Thomas Kretschmann as CAPTAIN ENGLEHORN
Colin Hanks as PRESTON
Jamie Bell as JIMMY
Andy Serkis as KING KONG/LUMPY
Evan Parke as HAYES
Kyle Chandler as BRUCE BAXTER
Directed by: Peter Jackson
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
“King Kong” is what you get when the current Hollywood golden boy is given a green light after winning an Oscar for a 3 1/2 hour movie. I was one of the silent few out there who thought that “The Return of the King” was ridiculously long for what it was worth. It seems that critics at least are having a similar orgasm over “King Kong.”
Now, I’m not saying that “King Kong” is a bad movie. It’s still pretty good, and if you’re gonna see it, check it out on the big screen. The effects are definitely worth it. But you may want to consider walking in about an hour late. You won’t miss much.
Peter Jackson may have lost weight, but he hasn’t lost his gluttony. There is no excuse for the 3 hour and 7 minute running time of “King Kong.” The film should have been and hour forty five, no longer. Hollywood needs an enema, and Peter Jackson needs an editor.
The movie opens in New York City with renegade film director Carl Denham (Jack Black) hijacking his movie and taking a ship into uncharted waters to find a mysterious island. He brings along the film’s new star Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) and the playwright-turned-screenwriter Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody). When they reach the island, they discover it to be inhabited by dinosaurs, man-sized maggots and a fifty foot ape named Kong.
After an inexcusably long first act that left me screaming “Show me the monkey,” “King Kong” actually takes off when the characters reach the island. Things are a little intense when natives start killing the camera crew and kidnap Ann to be sacrificed to Kong. But soon things turn into a giant monster smackdown with Kong fighting three T-rexes at once.
Surprisingly, there were many moments where the special effects broke down. Many of them are superb, but every so often it looks like the actors are standing in front of a cheap blue screen. I expected to hear a weather report from one of them. At times reminding me of “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” I guess that’s what you get with a film has so many special effects.
In the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Peter Jackson gave the most spirit to a computer-generated Gollum. Similarly, Kong is the star of this movie, and whenever he’s not on screen (which is considerable, I might add), things bog down. Fortunately, Kong is present in much of the second half of the film. Jackson still manages to drag things out. I like a good battle between monsters, but even these can be too much.
The acting is pretty decent. Naomi Watts turns in a good performance as the new Faye Wray, and Jack Black steals the show from the rest of the humans. I’m still trying to figure out what Adrien Brody’s purpose was in the movie, though. He got out-acted by a fifty-foot ape.
Jackson tips his hat at the original “King Kong” often enough, including a reference to Faye Wray being unavailable for the movie-within-a-movie because she’s doing a picture for RKO and also having dialogue from the original film be part of their script.
The biggest problem with “King Kong” – aside from its arrogantly bloated length – is that it tries to be too many things to too many people. It succeeds as an action flick, and as a period piece it’s so-so. However, it struggles to put in a love story between Ann and Jack. I guess because they’re on a boat, the studio wanted to capture that “Titanic” magic again.
Ultimately, the real relationship is between Ann and Kong. Here, Jackson really shines. Unlike the 1970s debacle with Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange, Kong doesn’t necessarily have the hots for Ann. Rather, he bonds with her as a human would with a pet. Kong isn’t smitten by the pretty girl, but rather finds a non-sexual companion.
I will see “King Kong” again in the theatres. My four year old son has demanded to see it ever since he saw a dinosaur on the movie pass. However, we’re gonna go grab dinner during the first part of the film. The torturous boat ride and rocky characterization is going to bore him. It did me.