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Ever since I was a kid, I've been a fan of RKO's MIGHTY JOE YOUNG. I loved the stop-motion animation used to bring the big gorilla to life for the 1949 classic. Now that Disney has remade MIGHTY JOE YOUNG ($30), I was intrigued to see how state-of-the-art computer animation would be deployed to bring the title character to life. Personably, I liked the new movie and loved the special effects. However, the remake will never displace the original as a film classic. As a side note, fans of the original will get a kick out of seeing a new jazzed up RKO logo at the start of this film's opening credits.

Like the original, the new MIGHTY JOE YOUNG is guaranteed to appeal young viewers. In addition to being entertaining for the kids, the new film also manages to slip in an important ecological message about protecting endangered species. MIGHTY JOE YOUNG stars Charlize Theron as Jill Young, the daughter of a noted research scientist who studied the wild gorillas of Africa. When Jill was a child, poachers murdered her mother as the scientist tried to protect the gorillas she was studying. As Jill’s mother lay dying, her last request to her daughter was for Jill to care for an infant gorilla that the poachers also left orphaned. Jill single-handedly raises the young gorilla she has named Joe, despite the fact that Joe suffers from a genetic mutation that has caused him to grow to gigantic proportions. As poachers begin encroaching on the remote jungle location where Joe has managed to remain hidden, Jill is forced to turn to Gregg O'Hara (Bill Paxton), a zoologist who has offered to give Joe refuge in a California animal conservatory. Bringing Joe to California stirs up a lot of press coverage, which catches the attention of the poacher who killed Joe's mother. After seeing Joe on television, the poacher decides he must capture the giant gorilla and settle an old score. The cast of MIGHTY JOE YOUNG also includes Rade Serbedzija, Regina King, Peter Firth, Naveen Andrews, David Paymer, Robert Wisdom, Christian Clemenson, Geoffrey Blake, Lawrence Pressman and Linda Purl.

Structurally, MIGHTY JOE YOUNG contains many of the same elements found in the original film, yet this remake has enough freshness and spontaneity to enable it to stand on its own. However, like Disney's own BAMBI, there are certain moments in MIGHTY JOE YOUNG that may make the film emotionally unnerving for extremely young children. Older children shouldn't have a problem with it, and I'm sure there is enough action in the film to keep them more than entertained. The special effects are stunning and they held the attention of this overgrown kid.

Walt Disney Home Video has made MIGHTY JOE YOUNG available on DVD in a very nice looking Letterboxed presentation that lacks the 16:9 enhancement for wide screen televisions. MIGHTY JOE YOUNG is framed at is theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and compositionally, does not seem to be compromised in any way. The transfer itself is sharp and highly detailed, with even dark sequences offering startling clarity. Film grain is slightly noticeable in a handful of shot, but it is never bothersome. Colors are rich and vivid, with the lush jungle hues never succumbing to chroma noise of distortion. Flesh tones remained natural throughout the presentation. Blacks are deep and true, plus the DVD boasts excellent contrast. Digital compression artifacts could barely be detected, thanks to competent DVD authoring.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has an excellent mix that aggressively takes advantage of the discrete capabilities of the format. Sound effects jump out from every direction, plus the soundtrack has a very wide soundstage that encompasses the surround channels to create a complete sonic environment. Bass reproduction is very strong, while the dialogue sounds completely natural. English subtitles have been encoded into the DVD.

The interactive menus are of the basic variety, but they provide the standard scene selection feature and access to a theatrical trailer, plus a neat little production featurette.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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