Picks and Pans Review: George of the Jungle
When our hero, George of the Jungle (Fraser), proffers a ropy vine to a lovely heiress (Mann) he has just saved from an attacking lion and invites her to "Swing, swing, swing," the invitation proves impossible to resist. Why try? George of the Jungle is the most welcome surprise of the summer. Among all the heavily hyped would-be blockbusters of the season, this genial goofball of a movie wins you over with its silly, let's-just-have-some-fun charm. Even adults, if they let themselves, will find it a hoot.
A live-action version of the Saturday morning cartoon that ran on ABC from 1967 to 1970 and then in syndication, George follows the comic adventures of its vine-swinging, loincloth-wearing Tarzan wannabe. Raised from infancy (after surviving a plane crash) in the African jungle by an ape, George grows up to be a handsome, well-built fellow with an unfortunate propensity, when traveling by vine, for bashing into trees. In the movie he falls (in every sense of the word) for the heiress, who whisks him off to San Francisco and introduces him to Armani. Back in Africa, however, his mentor, a talking ape, is kidnapped by evil poachers, and George must return to rescue him.
The film won me over early on when an African guide plunged from a rope bridge and, as his flailing body hurtled toward a roaring river below, the booming voice of the movie's narrator announced reassuringly, "Don't worry. Nobody dies in this movie. They just get really big boo-boos." Cut to the guide, laughing with pals around the campfire that night, a big Band-Aid on his forehead.
George just may make Fraser (Encino Man and Mrs. Winterbourne) a star. He's darn cute and manages to convey George's fundamental dimness without cutting down on his likability. And it doesn't hurt that he has the best pair of male legs to grace a screen since a kilted Mel Gibson pranced across the heath a couple of years ago in Braveheart. (PG)