George of the Jungle 2Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
Posted 05/16/04 14:03:30
Clearly we as a society need a "George of the Jungle 2" as much as we needed ONE feature-length motion picture based on a silly old cult cartoon about the world's clumsiest Tarzan wannabe. In other words, both flicks are as unnecessary as they are entirely expendable. Adults may smirk a few times as either flick unfolds; kids will chuckle intermittently before the DVDs spend a whole lot of time of the shelf collecting dust.To its questionable credit, George of the Jungle 2 is, despite its direct-to-video pedigree, no better and no worse than its more expensive (and theatrically-released) predecessor. Indeed, the paperweight sequel actually gets a few things right that the first George of the Jungle did not, which logically means the sequel is actually a better movie than the first one is! (Take that logic one step further and you'll understand that George is a fairly poor flick, so calling George 2 a "minor improvement" is hardly praise worth slapping onto the DVD cover in big block letters.)
Taking a cue from Jay Ward's cute little animated novelty of a Tarzan spoof, George of the Jungle 2 is laden with self-referential humor, big broad pratfalls, and alliteration-intensive puns that hope to make you groan as capably as you would laugh. It's all very silly stuff, the best moments of which come early on as our "new" George explains that "I'm new George. Disney was too cheap to hire Brendan Fraser for the sequel!" Yeah, it's that type of humor.
The replacement of the original George with relative unknown Christopher Showerman doesn't seem to mar Part 2 all that much; it's not exactly a commanding role or anything. Showerman looks like a jungle guy, he's handsome enough to cause a few contented sighs from the pre-teen girls in the audience, and he has a good-natured lugnut sensibility that helps the slapstick go down with little effort.
The plot of Part 2, and I use the term loosely, sees George struggling (yet again) with the devious mother and former fiancee of his beloved jungle bride, Ursula. Being a sequel, George 2 logically includes a little boy as George Jr. and a whole lot of animals who speak via the questionable blessing of CGI technology.
Basically, Ursula's snobby mama (Christina Pickles) and humorously clueless former beau (Thomas Haden Church) return to George's kingdom in an effort to convince the lovely blondie to return to civilization. Ursula and Junior's love for George proves a difficult habit to break. Ultimately it's that decades-old "let's hypnotize her!" schtick that does the trick. Before he knows it, George is searching through the alien landscape of Las Vegas for his curvaceous cutie and his precocious progeny.
Aha! See that? That silly alliteration I just did? That's what comes from watching these George of the Jungle movies! Keith Scott, original narrator of Jay Ward's classic cartoons, manages to steal the whole of George of the Jungle 2...and the guy's never even shown onscreen. Whenever the overt silliness of George 2 becomes almost too much to bear, Scott chimes in with a narrative nugget that's almost too clever for something as disposable as a direct-to-video sequel to an all-but-unnecessary feature film. It's not often that the voice-over narration offers the best material in a goofball comedy, but that's absolutely the case in George of the Jungle 2.
The remaining performers fare a bit more inconsistently; Showerman has an aw-shucks charm and can slam face-first into a tree with the best of 'em, but his breathy "George love Ursula!" performance grows a bit wearisome by the Act III point. Julie Benz is hardly bucking for an Oscar, but here she's simply required to stare google-eyed at her jungle man and look real purty. She pulls off both quite well. Both refugees from the original George of the Jungle, Christina Pickles and Thomas Haden Church seem to visibly enjoy playing a pair of over-the-top comic-book villains. Church, particularly, definitely has a knack for extreme slapstick. One hopes he'll get further opportunities to flex his comedy chops in projects that don't include "George" and "Jungle" in the title.
If one of your kids are among the dozens who "really loved" the original George of the Jungle, then Part 2 would probably make a worthwhile stocking stuffer or B-level gift of that variety. For all its obvious humor and uninspired presentation, there is actually a somewhat surprising number of actual chuckles to be found in George 2. It sure isn't high art; heck, it's a secondhand second-generation retread of a cartoon nearly 40 years old!But after being subjected to some truly atrocious examples of Disney's direct-to-video mindset (avoid "Inspector Gadget 2" as if it were literally made of animal feces), I'm willing to give "George of the Jungle 2" a half-hearted pat-on-the-back...just for being supremely silly and doing an pretty OK job of it.
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