Awfully Good: Congo

Last Updated on July 31, 2021

Sure, you can take a trip to SKULL ISLAND this week, but for some real monkey business you need to go to…

Congo (1995)

Director: Frank Marshall
Stars: Laura Linney, Dylan Walsh, Ernie Hudson

Some dumb humans and a talking gorilla set out on an expedition to the African jungle to find a mystical lost city filled with priceless communication diamonds.

Following the brontosaurus-sized success of JURASSIC PARK, pretty much every Michael Crichton novel was quickly snatched up and thrown in to production. Longtime Spielberg producer Frank Marshall jumped behind the camera for CONGO, an adaptation of Crichton’s pulpy 1980 jungle adventure. Marshall’s original plan was to use JURASSIC PARK’s wildly successful dino CGI technology to create realistic computer-animated gorillas, but when recreating their fur proved impossible for the time, the filmmakers had to settle for practical creature effects.

The result was not good.

Sometimes you just need a stiff drink after a busy day of tossing feces.

As a film on its own, CONGO is a standard 90s expedition movie that’s well-intentioned yet undeniably corny. Nostalgia notwithstanding, this was still a dumb movie the day it came out. But with a few fun sequences up it’s sleeve and a decent cast that includes everyone from Laura Linney to Tim Curry and even a Bruce Campbell cameo, CONGO would be harmless fun… if not for that damn gorilla Amy.

While attempting to bring Amy to life using 1995 computer animation would’ve been a disaster, the practical version may even be worse. From the looks of it, Stan Winston and his team spent all their time working on much cooler/scarier grey gorillas and handed off Amy to some low-level intern. From the first moment we see her struggling to finger-paint to her final melodramatic goodbye, Amy’s unnatural expressions and movements suggests “mentally-deficient furry child” more than “real gorilla.” To put it nicely, this isn’t Stan’s best work.

“Hey girl, if you were a flower you’d be a DAMNNNNNdelion”

The script, a lazy embarrassment with lines like “I’m not a pound of sugar, I’m a primatologist!” and “Oh, no, the bad apes have the crystal lasers!,” doesn’t help much. Amy is a special gorilla in that she knows sign language and wears a glove that allows her to “speak.” Unfortunately this only makes her character exceedingly creepy, constantly talking in her weird Siri voice about how pretty she is and begging to be tickled. (Seriously, any time the monkey talks, CONGO veers in to Razzie territory.) The filmmakers also turn Amy in to a walking punchline, making her do stupid things for cheap laughs like drink martinis and smoke cigarettes. Clearly not what Michael Chrichton had in mind in the original novel.

After Joe Camel died of emphysema, his replacement was not hard to find.

The story is as follows: When Amy starts having terrible nightmares, her handler Peter senses it’s because she misses home and immediately decides it’s worth taking her back to war-torn Zaire, which they can only access by jumping out of a plane before it gets shot down. (Yes, that includes the monkey.) Along the way the scientists hook up with Laura Linney, a corporate telecommunications expert on her way to Africa to rescue her former fiancée (Bruce Campbell) and find a mystical diamond that somehow can make satellites work better. They also encounter a deliciously conniving Tim Curry (using an amazing accent as a Romanian philanthropist), a decidedly British Ernie Hudson, and younger versions of John Hawkes, Joe Pantoliano, Lost’s Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Delroy Lindo as a war lord who does not like sharing baked goods.

Even non-humans had strong opinions about GHOSTBUSTERS II.

Most of the film is spent with this ragtag team just wandering aimlessly in the jungle. It’s not until the final 20 minutes that they finally reach the Lost City of Zinj and CONGO fully goes off the rails. It turns out that an army of killer grey gorilla bodyguards have protected the city for centuries and they’re definitely not happy that a bunch of people are trying to steal their diamonds. Just as the apes are about to justifiably murder everyone, Amy jumps in and uses her stupid sign language to say “Ugly gorillas, go away! Peter hug Amy!” This distracts the monkeys long enough for Laura Linney to somehow MacGuyver a Star Wars blaster out of satellite parts and begin killing everyone and everything. That’s right—CONGO breifly turns Laura Linney in to a badass action star who uses a laser gun to mow down dozens and dozens of unarmed animals. She even gets to throw in a couple one-liners. (“I’m putting them on the endangered species list!”)

“This terrible script is so vivid and lifelike!”

And if that’s not ridiculous enough, at this exact same time, the volcano the lost city was apparently built on decides to erupt, meaning our heroes have to murder monkeys AND outrun lava. It’s truly a finale to remember, even in its final moments. After the important white people make it out alive, they romantically escape via a hot air balloon. Then, completely out of spite, Laura Linney decides to throw the priceless diamond away, despite all of their friends who literally just died trying to find it. And then CONGO ends with these actual lines:

“There’s a wind.”
“I hope it blows us some place good.”

Amy’s worst lines about being pretty and tickling, as well as other examples of this terrible, terrible script.

Amy’s most embarrassing moments, as well as killer gorilla action and bloodsucking penis leeches.

Naked primates.

Thems the rules. Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Amy says “pretty” or “tickle”
  • Amy is mean to Laura Linney
  • An F-bomb is dropped
  • Someone or something smokes
  • An animal is killed or injured
  • A human is killed by a gorilla
  • An ape commits suicide

Double shot if:

  • Amy drinks

Thanks to Phil 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.


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