Monday, March 16, 2015

Gorilla + Martini = Magic

Before I discuss 1995's Congo, I'd like to introduce those who don't know about it to a very, very important website.

See, as an animal lover, I often find myself being one of those morally confused viewers who watches a film where human beings are tortured and slaughtered without a facial twitch, yet sobs like a baby who stubbed its toe when an adorable puppy is kicked or a likable hamster meets the dark limbo of a household vacuum. Call me a hypocrite in any language, but I was among those in the theater for Cold Mountain that gasped when a hungry hermit slit a goat's throat yet munched on my popcorn when hundreds of soldiers were blasted away.

This kind of attitude is what kept me away from Congo for, it would now seem twenty years. I remember the film being released and thought, as any typical thirteen-year-old girl would, "Neat! Gorillas! Jungles! Volcanoes! Ernie Hudson!" Then I realized the film included a lovable TALKING gorilla who was so clearly going to earn my instant love. Then I realized the film included human characters SHOOTING gorillas. I could connect the dots well enough (thanks, Pee-Wee's Playhouse) to know that this added up to the chance that human characters may very well shoot the talking gorilla that had earned my love.

That did not sound joyous.

Thankfully, twenty years later, I'm married to a man who has seen Congo so when I asked, "Does the adorable talking gorilla die?" he responded, 


"Are you sure?"


Okay. So I now allowed myself to watch Congo. 

Side note: does not apparently care about gorillas, as it has no entry for Congo. I still recommend it for those (like me) who nearly turned off The Caller for fear of that wonderful golden retriever suffering a cruel fate, but if you like gorillas, then I advise you to marry someone like my husband.

Just not, you know, MY husband. Because then I'll have to go all Laura Linney on you.


Quick Plot: A multimillion dollar communications conglomerate something something headed by a paranoid Joe Don Baker sends Ash to Africa to find diamonds that can power laser guns.

No, I'm serious. 

And yes, that's just the first five minutes.

Before you can say groovy, Bruce Campbell is mangled by mutant-ish gorillas and his ex-fiancee/colleague Karen Ross (Linney) is heading overseas to track him down. Meanwhile, primatologist Peter (Dylan Walsh) is also booking a flight to Africa in order to reunite his prized talking ape Amy with her motherland. His travel companions include a nervous assistant and a Romanian philanthropist hammed up by Tim Curry.

Yes, THE Tim Curry.

And yes, THE Tim Curry speaks in what might be the most awesomely ridiculous European accent humanely possible. If Congo gave me one thing, it's the new dream project of seeing Tim Curry cast in a live action musical version of Bram Stoker's Dracula but playing the titular role as if he were Sesame Street's The Count.

In my head, it's life changing.

Because one amazing accent isn't enough, we also get Ernie Hudson as Munro, a black great white hunter (it makes sense, trust me) guiding the missions. Munro is British, I guess, and speaks with a randomly pretentious lilt that seems to delight the man playing him. That's enough for me.

Also, his assistant is played by Adebisi himself, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Here's an actor that always deserves better, but it's still nice to see him show up to fight mutant-ish gorillas.

So. To recap:

Karen Ross goes to the Congo to find Bruce Campbell and maybe laser diamonds that Muppet Count Tim Curry wants while Peter tries to free Amy the Talking Gorilla and political chaos causes a lot of travel problems so we lose a few porters but Laura Linney can fire flare guns at missiles and hungry hungry hippos attempt to eat people which means we lose a few more porters while mutant-ish apes guard King Solomon's mine and we just lost two more porters and there are volcanoes, too.

I think I hit all the major plot points in that beautifully written sentence, but I did not, however, provide you a list of all the amazing things Amy does. 

No, not that Amazing Amy. Better.

Remember, Amy is a gorilla, albeit a puppet one created by Stan Winston, but still an adorable banana-eating gorilla. She adorably does the following:

Hugs a stuffed animal
Plays with a lizard and frog

Wears 3D glasses

Paints a picture


Parachutes with Ernie Hudson
Sips a martini

Yes folks, no matter how sour that 7% Fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating may seem (and the lone fresh bite comes from none other than the late but always great Roger Ebert), Congo is the movie that features a cute gorilla sipping a martini. 

It is a masterpiece.

High Points
There's no other way to say this: Laura Linney as Karen Ross kicks ass. Here's an intelligent, multi-talented female character who never asks or needs help from her male counterparts, who can take down missiles, outrun a volcano, kill killer mutant-ish gorillas, stick it to her boss, tie her hair back in a soft scrunchie, and assemble a futuristic laser gun in the middle of an African cave. Screw Lara Croft: THIS is what a heroine looks like

Low Points
You can always tell when a script was filmed with some undecided decisions. Here you have Oscar and Tony winning playwright John Patrick Shanley penning the kind of screenplay that gives our main character an ex-fiance without ever discussing what made the ex, which was most likely done because the studio hadn't decided if Laura Linney and Dylan Walsh had romantic chemistry (they don't; Linney is great but you can't compete with a martini-sipping gorilla) or if test audiences wanted a romance. So instead, we have a vague attempt at romantic tension (seemingly more from the actors' instincts than script), confusing dead relationship we don't know if we should care about, and the feeling that it would all be better if Ernie Hudson and Laura Linney ended the film making out

Lessons Learned
The shortage of qualify diamonds is the real reason we haven't yet made lightsabers a commercial product

Unlike pounds of sugar, primatologists don't have prices

Stop eating Captain Wanta's sesame cake



Look, Congo is a mess of a big budget action flick, but it's a RIDICULOUS mess of a big budget action flick and as a result, it's one heck of a good time. Director Frank Marshall (Alive, Arachnophobia) spent decades playing around as a producer on Steven Spielberg's films, and he brings a sort of highly flawed, but super enthusiastic spirit of adventure to this weirdly ambitious summer film. The movie is streaming on Netflix and while there are innocent(ly murderous mutant-ish) gorilla deaths, the spirit is light enough to make this ultimately more about fun than anything remotely political. Sorry, Michael Crichton. I'm sure you hated the final product along with the critics, but when you have Ernie Hudson playing the suave hero, Tim Curry eating scenery with the hunger of Cookie Monster, an unapologetically strong female lead, and an adorable gorilla sipping a martini, you have a winner.

No comments:

Post a Comment