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  Congo Lightly Gorilla'dBuy this film here.
Year: 1995
Director: Frank Marshall
Stars: Laura Linney, Dylan Walsh, Ernie Hudson, Tim Curry, Joe Don Baker, Grant Heslov, Misty Rosas, Joe Pantoliano, James Karen, Delroy Lindo, Bruce Campbell, Taylor Nichols, Carolyn Seymour, Stuart Pankin, Peter Jason, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Shayna Fox
Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: There is an expedition to the Congo in Africa to seek out a special type of diamonds that can be put to a variety of uses, one of them the essential component in a laser. The party has found the source of the gems and more, and Charles (Bruce Campbell) uses the satellite video link to talk to his father and CEO of the company, Travis (Joe Don Baker), telling him the good news along with Dr. Karen Ross (Laura Linney), who is also in the control room and used to be Charles' fiancée. However, he fails to let them know the exact location of the find and signs off too soon, which proves to be unfortunate when that transmission turns out to be his last. What has happened? Karen realises that she must gather a new expedition to track them down using the signal of the laser...

And she has to take a woman wearing a gorilla suit along with her. During the nineteen-nineties, Hollywood adaptations of Michael Crichton novels were all the rage, especially after the massive success of Jurassic Park, so why not put his jungle adventure novel onscreen, here adapted by John Patrick Shanley? The reason can be seen here in this risible effort which looked like a big budget version of a fifties B-movie, only here the story continues for a good half hour or more longer than those films, and the lack of interest in the narrative tends to be pretty wearing once the hoots of derisive laughter have died down.

Why does Karen have to be accompanied by a woman in a gorilla suit? Because she's going on an expedition to introduce her back to the wild, of course, and this project is headed by her trainer, Dr Peter Elliott (Dylan Walsh) who has taught the creature sign language in a Koko: A Talking Gorilla, kind of way. But they have to go one better and have hooked Amy, as she is named, up to a device that provides a voice for her which makes her appear to be the simian equivalent of Melanie Griffith: "Amy good gorilla" she squeaks. Stan Winston designed the costume, but in effect it's really no more convincing than George Barrows' gorilla suit.

The same can be said of the rest of the film. Karen and Peter are joined by a Transylvanian entrepreneur who promises to put up the money, played Tim Curry who seems to have borrowed his accent from Star Trek - but from Chekov or Scotty? I can't quite decide, and neither can he, evidently. Sadly, when they reach the troubled area of the Congo, the Romanian tells them he has no money and Karen has to reach into the pockets of her corporation to help out. As their guide, they are awarded one Captain Munro, a "great white hunter, but I happen to be black" played by Ernie Hudson who gives the most natural performance and manages to keep his head up while all around are losing their's.

So far Congo has been eliciting a steady stream of chuckles, but once they get down to the serious business of finding the diamonds and a lost city which happens to be around the site they're looking for, boredom sets in. Not that it's uneventful, what with the cast having to parachute out of their plane when it has rockets fired at it, a tribe who are keeping a member of the previous party alive so he can scream at Amy and expire just as Karen and company find him, and a hippopotamus attack in the river, among other obstacles. What lies at the end of their journey is a lost race of killer gorillas that bump off the least important members of the cast in order, and an active volcano which erupts on cue. Considering the whole adventure yields absolutely nothing of worth, not even diamonds, you may be left pondering what exactly the point was. Same here. And why did they teach Amy to drink Martinis and smoke cigars if they're so ecology-conscious? Music by Jerry Goldsmith.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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