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Wednesday, February 7, 2007

King Kong — DVD Review

The remake of the classic King Kong started slow, and gradually improved to a poorly done film that raised the question of whether or not the original actually had better special effects. With a subplot that was rather dull and a failed attempt to make the main story more dramatic, the 2005 film falls way short of the classic category obtained by the original.

Carl Denham (Jack Black) headed overseas in a rush to make a feature film that his supporters were about to pull the plug on. Veering ridiculously off course, the ship and crew ended up on Skull Island, which seemed to get stuck in pre-historic times. Complete with dinosaurs and monstrous insects, the island is home to a massive ape that captures (technically rescues then captures), and falls in love with, Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) – the heroin of Denham’s film. King Kong is eventually captured, and the money-grabbing producer attempts to exploit the giant ape back in New York to disastrous results.

I only vaguely recall watching the black-and-white version of this film, but I remember being compelled by it. This version barely kept me watching on a cold, slow night. It took about an hour into the film for them just to get to the island, which was followed by a side-trip into conflict with the natives that served little purpose.

King Kong even failed to sell the bond between Ann and Kong. First of all, she would’ve been dead 10 times over the way Kong carried her around. Maybe I’m nitpicking, but she was constantly in Kong’s grip as he wild flung his arms around. Besides that, there was never any moment where the viewer thought she cared about what happened to Kong, except for the very end.

Aside from going on too long, the film’s biggest flaw was the lack of build-up to the end. I would’ve preferred skipping half of the Skull Island scenes, and seeing how the heck they got Kong home. Or how about a little on how they kept him sedated? Or hidden? I mean, Denham is just suddenly back in New York with a theater show with Kong as the centerpiece. Ann’s not involved at all. Then, suddenly on opening night, Kong decides to go wild and find Ann.

Jack Black’s character didn’t quite work for me, either. Half the time Denham was a quasi-swindler looking to capitalize on the trip any way possible, and the rest of the time he was truly into his work desperate to salvage his footage. Besides that, Black couldn’t shake the fact that he’s known for roles like Nacho Libre. I couldn’t take him all that seriously, and kept waiting for him to make some ridiculous joke or launch into a song parody.

Naomi Watts was the saving grace early on, selling the sweet, innocence of a young, vaudeville actress in need of work. But her efforts at the sassy chick while trapped with the ape never quite worked. Again, I never bought that she grew to like the ape.

Jack Driscoll played Adrien Brody, who saved Ann while they were on the island. Meant as a foil to Denham, the character just never stood out enough to make a difference in the movie. Like the rest of the characters in this film, I never cared much about this one.

Overall, skip the 2005 version and watch the black-and-white version.

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