Talk about things on the endangered species list, what about the good old-fashioned "B" movie? You remember, the type of movie you would go see on a Saturday afternoon where the faces of the actors are more memorable than their names, nobody seems overly concerned about the gapping holes in the plot, and there is a thrilling climax. It is hard to find a good "B" movie nowadays ("good" being a relative if not totally ironic term), but "Congo" sure fits the bill.
First, look at the cast. Laura Linney as Dr. Karen Ross has the most impressive body of work in film, but she is certainly the most atypical "heroine" to be seen in an action film for a while (Her secret? The good doctor knows how to pack for every occasion). I am sure I have seen Dylan Walsh, who plays Dr. Peter Elliot, in something else, but I cannot name you the film. Ernie Hudson as "great white hunter" Monroe Kelly is still probably best known as the non-comedian Ghostbuster, and Tim Curry gets to engage in monumental exaggerated acting as Herkermer Homolka the fortune hunter. Actually, it is Curry's performance alone that should key you in to the fact you are not supposed to take this film seriously (although I am sure Michael Crichton's novel was probably not this comic).
The plot has to try and keep up with the four different agendas of these main characters. Dr. Ross wants to find out what happened to her ex-fiancé, who disappeared in the jungle. Dr. Elliot wants to return Amy, a domesticated gorilla he has talk to "speak" using sign language and sophisticated technology, to her home in the jungle. Homolka is looking for the lost diamond mine of King Solomon, which is located somewhere in the jungle. Meanwhile, Mr. Kelly just wants to get everybody out of the jungle alive. The payoff for all these plot lines is a climax in which about a half-dozen independently unbelievable things happen within the space of about five minutes to allow some of our heroes to survive. At that point, plot holes seem the least of your problems as a viewer.
"Congo" is also one of those movies where you can have fun recognizing bits and pieces of your favorite movies crammed here and there into this one (e.g., the sentinel guns from "Aliens"). There is even one of those scenes where everybody starts singing a song together that has been popping up in so many films lately. This is a movie where that thing on top of your shoulder is there for the sole purpose of having a place to put your popcorn, because this is not a thinking person's film. Every once in a while you need to see a "B" movie and "Congo" fits the bill by that standard. If you were expecting a great film, then you are just going to be bitterly disappointed. But if you are sitting in bed going through one box of tissues after another, a film like this is just what the doctor ordered.
on December 6, 2007
Decent movie. Plot was exciting and interesting. The acting was fairly terrible. Ernie Hudson gave an interesting performance. Who is Dylan Walsh? Laura Linney played an annoying character. The writers could have done a little better with the actors interaction. Seemed like Dr. Eliot did not even care that his friend and assistant Richard was killed by the killer apes. How did he die anyways? He managed to make it to the safety of the rest of the crew, and was then terrified to death.
I don't even know why Richard (played by Grant Heslov) went on the safari anyways, he doesn't even like picnics. But I'm glad he did because it was funny to see the poor bug-eyed geek complain the whole trip. You could tell that no one on the crew liked him which is why I almost felt bad when he died. His final moments in the movie are by far the most memorable.
More of the porters should have been developed as characters. We only get to see Kahega and Claud. We dont really see what happens to most of them.
What are the chances that not one porter survives? Dr. Ross (Linney) should have died.
Anywho... see the movie for the sake of Grant Heslov.
on June 1, 2004
I loved this movie, bought the DVD and watch it over and over the performance is so good. It is hard to single out any one thing. The musical score and songs are so good, I keep playing them over in my head. The scene where Dylan Walsh's character starts singing "California Dreaming" to Amy and everyone of the Africans join in the song shows the universality of music and song to people. As with any well executed movie, the details were done right letting the viewer enjoy the actors work. All of the priciple actors came accross as believable in their characters. The only mystery to me is the total lack of credit listing for Joe Pantoliano's participation and his character not even being listed in the ending credits! There must be some Hollywood Gossip behind that. Ernie Hudson really stole the show. The using of a British accent was genius. Since the English colonized and ruled most of Africa for years and set up most of the schools, an African guide would speak English with a British accent. The ending sequence with the volcano erupting and the land splitting brings back fond memories of 1940s "expedition" movies that always ended with such a scene.
"Congo" is entertaining, well directed, scored and acted. It is well worth the price of purchase and my only critcism (the devil is in the details) is the depiction of too few porters to haul the amount of equipment they kept coming up with for different scenes. Laura Linney's character was great! She had the best lines in the movie too.
Rent it or buy it, you will not regret it.
on May 18, 2004
Congo is an adventure movie that has a number of plot threads. The first is the search for Bruce Campbell who lost communications with TraviCom while searching for a perfect diamond in the Congo. A forced satellite link shows the camp in disarray and the team lying dead but Bruce was not seen. The link is then broken by something that looks like a killer gorilla. A team needs to get there quickly by attaching themselves to another expedition.
Secondly a young scientist has used virtual reality technology to teach a young gorilla how to talk. A computer and a VR glove interpret the gorilla's sign language and turns it into speech. The gorilla had also been taught to paint. Amy (the gorilla) is having nightmares and painting the jungle. An expedition is formed to return her to her home in the Congo.
Thirdly, we have Tim Curry as a Hungarian philanthropist who funds the gorilla expedition as he feels the gorilla has seen the lost city of Zinj built by Solomon to protect his diamond mines.
These three plots are tied together in a believable fashion with some interesting characters thrown in (especially the guide who alone makes the movie worth seeing).
As is typical in the Lost Race sub genre, something will happen to make returning impossible. In this movie the plot device is the volcanic range that produced the diamonds. This is one of the few modern Lost Race stories that works despite what modern science knows about the world.
The movie begins in the States setting up the plot threads then moves to traveling through an Africa in political upheaval and ends in the rainforest with Zinj and its mysterious inhabitants. Like most movies it has some flaws. The biggest being the Egyptian look of Solomon's city. Nothing Jewish looking about the place. The walls were even covered with Egyptian hieroglyphics. Still, it was an enjoyable movie with good characters and plots. This is a film I recommend.
on July 9, 2002
I haven't read any Michael Crichton books but I have seen the movies based on his books. Compared to "Sphere" and "Jurassic Park", Congo is a waste of time and there is no fighting sequences until the end, action fans. The back title says that once the group of explorers hoping to return a gorilla to her family enter the lost city of Zinj, they will become the endangered species. How long is the movie? 109 minutes (with end titles and beginning comercials, overall only 100 minutes.) At what point do the explorers enter Zinj? 80 minutes into the movie. So tell me, do you want to see 20 minutes of action or a whole two hours of action and thrills as is such movies as "Sphere" and "Jurassic Park" Plus, many of the actors and actresses I had never even heard of and I'm guessing you will too. The movie is boring and is a complete waste of time. If you don't trust me, see it. You will be bored. Do not see or buy Congo and start thinking about buying good movies from Michael Crichton. I say it once more and for the last time, this is not one of those good MIchael Crichton movies.
on July 27, 2001
I didn't read the book, but I'm pretty sure it was more interesting than the movie. You see, the message, which is that technology can not tame nature, has been lost in a movie that's is more about getting ready- they get ready to board the plane, get ready to run through the jungle, ready to be scared, ready to run from lava... We mostly watch the characters preparing for the next scene-literally- which kills the element of surprise. There are a few funny scenes, but all else is so pretentious that we feel we are on a ride in a theme park , instead of in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by real dangers. Because of well known formulas, we know Laura Linney, or Amy-the gorilla- or her master will not die. So we go along for the ride to see what will happen next, but it's all telegraphed to us. The use of technology in this movie is just as ridiculous as a fly placing sticky paper on a Wall Street sidewalk just to se if the stock brokers will step on them. They place a laser activated alarm system in the middle of the jungle to;1- make sure they can grab a rifle before being eaten or 2-to give the "heads up" or 3-just to show they had this equipment? Third one gets the cigar! Then there is the invasion, and killing, by the humans, of the apes, which where just minding their business in their neck of the woods. The idea-presented in the film -that the jungle is filled with danger, is reasonable, but what was the message? Animals are bad , people are good? The plot is just an excuse to send some people out to the jungle, and visually it lacks the attention to detail of earlier movies of the same genre. The temple crumpling at the end looks like what it really is- painted foam blocks. I'm sure Mr. Crichton wasn't happy with the end product, it's ok , it's not your fault Mr. Crichton. Most viewers know that sometimes too many changes by too many people can kill a good book adaptation.
on June 5, 2000
In the tradition of H. Rider Haggard and "Indiana Jones" comes another blockbuster adaptation of a bestselling Michael Crichton novel. Up until now, this has not been one of his better known books, although it was a good enough read. The film is okay, but hopefully it will lead people to the even better book.
The story begins in the jungles of the Congo. An expedition of scientists has discovered an incredible find: a huge source of pure, blue diamonds. They communicate the good news back home, but before they can transmit their coordinates, they are suddenly attacked and killed. But by what?
Another scientist is sent in to find out. Dr. Karen Ross (Laura Linney), for reasons best left unexplained, attaches herself to a mission already bound for Zaire. A primatologist (Dylan Walsh) is returning his talking gorilla-she communicates through sign language-to her home in Africa. He is accompanied by a mysterious and very shady Romanian "philanthropist" with the unlikely name of Herkermer Homolka (Tim Curry). Karen comes along at a crucial time with a pile of money and is soon part of the gang.
Once in Africa, they meet up with Monroe Kelly (Ernie Hudson), their Great White Hunter "who happens to be black." That's when their adventure begins in earnest and it is a wild one. I won't give it away here-you probably wouldn't believe me anyway-but it is exciting and suspenseful, if never actually believable.
The screenplay for "Congo" was written by noted playwright John Patrick Shanley ("Moonstruck"). He has an odd sense of humor-witness his underrated "Joe Vs. the Volcano"-that is very much in evidence here. The story at times borders on the ludicrous and it is filled with all the delightful cliches that usually populate jungle adventure films (e.g. porters who go missing in the night, and a corpse with a diamond clutched in its hand).
Maybe the film wouldn't have worked any other way. I don't know. By making the story a pseudo-spoof, though, Shanley has removed the dramatic tension and suspense that made the novel work. Since everything is played for laughs-all too frequently unintentionally-then it is almost impossible for us to really get involved and care about what is happening.
Still, there is always pleasure to be had from a film that doesn't take itself too seriously and is not above poking fun at the customs of its genre. "Congo" has that, plus a few exciting scenes and some fun performances, particularly by Ernie Hudson. It is certainly not a great film, but it is a pleasant diversion on a hot summer day.
on May 3, 2000
The most ridiculous movie of all time: The movie wherein an annoying gorilla (Played by stagehand in costume) who remembers, via the old, dull, semi-frightened, glazy-eyed flashback expression, the jungle, long ago when she was but a wee gorilla... But Amy (Gorilla/stagehand) was rescued and donated to research, which is how Dr. Elliot (Walsh) got a hold of her, and teaches her sign-language. But seeing as how everyone who watches the movie probably wouldn't know how to read sign-language, they (the monkey/diretor) decided to invent a mechanism that says, in a computer-sounding little girl voice whatever Amy signs. And she usually only signs: "Me Amy. Amy good gorilla!" Which was cute up until the second time she said it. Anyhow, the story is, Amy and Dr. Elliot go into the Congo with an expedition team to look for another expedition team, and also to find diamonds, and to - why not? - find the answer to the question: "Why is Amy having bad dreams?" It turns out that Amy is having bad dreams because of the super-gorilla, man-eating, Great Gray worshipped gorillas that terrorize the expedition. The movie really hits its peak when Dr. Elliot tries to fight off the evil gorillas, and Amy saves him. Also with a neat-o laser thing that can shoot satellites to boot, makes Congo just a whole heck of a lot of fun.... If you happen to be sleeping while it's on. If you're awake it's quite painful.
on September 17, 1999
This is a GOOD 'B' flick - you know, the second feature that used to play ages ago when you actually got two first-run movies for your admission price! If you're a fan of B's you'll probably like this one - plenty of action, a nice dollop of humor, and some scenes that are definitely palm-sweating.
For me, anything with Ernie Hudson or Tim Curry in it is worth seeing, so I did, and after renting a couple of times I bought it. Hudson does a terrific Ronald Colman 1930's-great-white-hunter impersonation (the so-called "bizarre" accent mentioned by one professional reviewer), while also managing to make as much of a real person out of his character as the script allows. This guy is definitely not getting as much good material as he should: check out his other pictures, some of them are marginal but his performances are ALWAYS top-notch. Decidedly one of Hollywood's underappreciated actors. Tim Curry generates a terrific time with his weird, twitchy, obsessive character: I can't imagine anyone else in this role, or at least anyone who'd make it nearly as entertaining as he does. Laura Linney does an admirable job of portraying a tough female character without turning her into pretend-man or a brittle flounce. I'd like to see more of her work.
This movie is not Shakespeare, In Love or Otherwise. It's not Great Cinema. It IS entertaining and amusing, and worth seeing at least to appreciate some of the real bread-and-butter acting that's happening on-screen by folks stuck with less-than-Oscar material who still deliver the goods.
on July 27, 1999
I actually liked it. I read the book after I saw the movie. There were a lot of changes from the book to the movie, but hey isn't that normal for Hollywood. What attracted me to the movie was(yes) the apes and the lost city storyline. I love lost city storylines.But I thought Tim Curry's character was going to be more sinister actually, because when they showed him up close at the demonstration of Amy at the University, he had this sinister, dark, greedy look in his eyes. We all knew he had his own agenda, but he just turned out to be a coward. Also I loved the Laura Linney character. She took no heat from anyone. She was tough from beginning to end. I liked that. Usually some of the female characters are whiney and simpering "I want to go home" types. It's okay to be scared, but don't ruin it for everyone and I'm saying that as a female myself. But not Laura Linney's character. She was rough, tough and still feminine. Ok! It's not a big, dramatic,serious piece, but just watch it for the fun of it.