[Happy 20th Birthday!] Congo (1995)

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Director: Frank Marshall

Cast: Dylan Walsh, Laura Linney, Ernie Hudson, Grant Heslov, Joe Don Baker, Tim Curry

Screenplay: John Patrick Shanley

109 mins. Rated PG-13 for jungle adventure terror and action and brief strong language.

 

The late Michael Crichton was known for his ability to write science fiction as science fact. When Jurassic Park was released in 1993, everyone wanted on the Crichton train, even causing Steven Spielberg’s colleague and friend Frank Marshall (Eight Below, Arachnophobia) to take on a weaker work called Congo and make it essentially like Jurassic Park with apes. There’s only one hitch: the two stories are nothing alike, and Congo burned for it.

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Dr. Peter Elliot (Dylan Walsh, TV’s Nip/Tuck, Secretariat) wants to gets his ill ape Amy back to the wild, but without funding, he and his partner Richard (Grant Heslov, Good Night, and Good Luck, The Monuments Men) are out of luck. But when their plight comes under the attention of Herkermer Homalka (Tim Curry, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Burke and Hare), who may have motives of his own, Peter, Amy, and Richard are on the way to the Congo. Along the way, they meet up with Dr. Karen Ross (Laura Linney, The Truman Show, Mr. Holmes), who is heading in the same direction in search of answers to the disappearance of someone close to her.

Let me just start out by saying that there are some great elements in this film that aren’t handled correctly. Ernie Hudson (TV’s Oz, You’re Not You), for example, gives a fantastic performance as Captain Munro Kelly, a man assigned to get Peter and Amy to their destination safely. Unfortunately, we also get Dylan Walsh, an uncommanding lead, Laura Linney as an unlikable and poorly written character, and Joe Don Baker (GoldenEye, Mud) in one of the most laughably horrendous roles in screen history. I can live with Tim Curry’s hilariously cheesy work as Homalka, but even he doesn’t fit here.

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The screenplay is poorly put together and it leads to an uneven film that presents too much substance bloating a film with silly and convoluted plot threads. Jurassic Park, this is not. Not in the slightest.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

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