Like its inspiration King Kong, 1949's Mighty Joe Young featured a giant ape running amok in a big city. But unlike King Kong, Mighty Joe Young featured a thoroughly sweet giant ape and focused on his touching lifelong friendship with pretty jungle lady Terry Moore, which makes it prime fodder for this not-bad Disneyfied update. Some of the original's beautifully absurd touches have been replaced with elements of ecological and cultural sensitivity, but the story elements remain essentially the same: big ape, pretty lady (Charlize Theron), lunky leading man (Bill Paxton), and a little lesson about understanding. The 1949 version introduced the world to the impressive stop-motion special effects of Ray Harryhausen (who has a neat cameo alongside Moore), and another special-effects expert, Rick Baker, provides this remake with its best moments. Baker has created more than his share of monkeys over the years, and his version of Joe Young, whether seen running through the jungle or quietly interacting with Theron, surpasses them all. It's all a little silly, and silly in a way that's less fun than the original—due in part to an obvious subplot involving a poacher played by a hammy Peter Firth—but its kid-friendly B-movie charm and the peerless Mr. Young make it worthwhile, undemanding entertainment.
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