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Awfully Good: George of the Jungle


Disney takes another trip in to the jungle this week and so do we...


George of the Jungle (1997)


Director: Sam Weisman
Stars: Brendan Fraser, Leslie Mann, Thomas Hayden Church



GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE is a movie that has no right working as well as it does.  I don’t think anyone was clamoring for a live-action adaptation of a cartoon from 1967 that barely lasted one season. But against all odds, this is the rare instance in which the film version updates the source material while staying true to the spirit of it. At least it's much better than that God-awful ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE movie.

Another example of white people appropriating African culture. For shame.

Creator Jay Ward had a unique sense of humor that was readily apparent in all of his cartoons, like Rocky & Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, Peabody and Sherman, Super Chicken and his comedic spin on Tarzan, George of the Jungle. This 1997 live-action version manages to capture that, from the meta-jokes ("Meanwhile, at the very big and expensive waterfall set...") to the omniscient narrator who likes to get in to arguments with characters. Don't ask me how, but somehow a movie with the line "Nobody dies in this story. They just get really big boo-boos" actually makes it work.

THE USUAL SUSPECTS remake did all it could to differentiate itself from the original. 

The script, from the same person who wrote the criminally underrated THE 'BURBS, manages to appeal to both kids and adults. I remember liking this in 1997 and still enjoy the same jokes almost 20 years later. Some of it is definitely "stupid" (with more gorilla fart jokes and elephant piss gags than I remember), but overall it balances the tone pretty well and doesn't feel outdated. Some of the stuff, like George clotheslining a lion in an impromptu jungle WWE match, or getting from San Francisco to Africa by shipping himself via UPS, may be dumb, but endearingly so. 

Some days it's "Me Tarzan. You Jane" and some days it's the other way around.  

Brendan Fraser is great as the title character, though it is a bit strange that this is the exact same role he played in ENCINO MAN: A man in a loincloth who doesn't speak English is discovered and then brought in to modern American society where he is perplexed by the culture but still ends up teaching everyone around him a valuable lesson about life. It's a very weird and specific thing to be typecast as, but Fraser is pretty much a living cartoon, so I guess it works. A pre-Judd Apatow Leslie Mann plays the love interest who's there to ogle George's ripped jungle bod, while Thomas Hayden Church does what he does best—playing a self-centered white guy. Other notable supporting cast includes John Cleese as the voice of George's ape friend Ape, and Richard Roundtree as Shaft in Africa. 

This is not from the movie. This is how Brendan Fraser actually greets people.

GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE works best when it's taking place in the title location. Once George comes to America and it becomes a fish-out-of-water story where he gets addicted to coffee and has to deal with snooty rich people, it's less fun. It also brings me to my main issue and biggest takeaway from this movie—if George was originally an American baby lost in the African jungle after a plane crash, how come at no point in the movie do they try to find his parents?! They're shown in the beginning desperately searching for their son but the movie completely forgets about this. He comes all the way to the United States and nobody he meets is remotely interested in where he came from or how he got to be in the jungle. You have to imagine that George's parents are still suffering through the loss of their newborn son to an area filled with lions and other predatory animals. Meanwhile, he's living it up with Leslie Mann and her billionaire friends and family in San Francisco. 

Forget your family, embrace wealth and status! It's like the worst Disney moral ever. 

Brendan Fraser doesn't know how to clap. Never forget.


Some of the Narrator's best moments.

Purple nurples, gorilla farts, elephant piss, naked Brendan Fraser and much more!

Brendan Fraser shows you that jungle butt.

Watch out for that tree! Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • George swings or runs in to something
  • George does the Tarzan yell 
  • Someone trips
  • The theme song plays
  • Someone repeats what the narrator says
  • An animal drinks

Double shot if:

  • George turns to the camera and smiles


Thanks to Jared and Pramod for suggesting this week's movie!


Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.

Extra Tidbit: Before you start complaining that this doesn't truly belong in this column, here's at least one small Awfully Good connection: Joel Hodgson, creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000, did an uncredited rewrite on this film.
Source: JoBlo.com



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