New Films: Me George. You like me.

George of the Jungle Directed by Sam Weisman (U)
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Indy Lifestyle Online
"George, George, George of the Jungle, strong as he can be, George, George, George of the Jungle, watch out for that tree!" With all the subtlety of the bush telegraph beaten out by George's bongo-playing simian pals, Disney's live-action cartoon thunders its way on to the screen, a bundle of blockbusting jungle kitsch between its teeth to lay at the feet of its family audience.

A squeaky-clean parody of the Tarzan story, the film is directed with ultrabrite brio by Sam Weisman, but owes much of its bland charm to such computer-generated delights as a cultured talking ape (voiced by John Cleese), prowling lions, and Shep, the elephant who thinks he's a dog.

Brendan Fraser is the buffed beefcake in the "butt flap", an innocent White Ape who is hunted by evil English poacher Greg Crutwell as an exotic scalp, and later by Leslie Mann's trekking heiress as a future mate. Bursting with physical energy and wide-eyed naivety, Fraser is like the idiot brother to Christophe Lambert's Tarzan in Greystoke, all softly permed hair and child-like enthusiasm, which can't be dinned out of him even by his propensity to headbutt treetrunks as he swings his vine.

The story is slim, with Mann's ecologically friendly expedition party (headed by that wise old exploitation veteran Richard Roundtree) happily wobbling across rope bridges and moving through scenery from The Land that Time Forgot until George rescues our heroine from Mann-eating lions and whisks her away to his chi-chi tree house.

There the pair fall in love, Mann later dragging George back to the urban jungle of San Francisco for further fish-out-of-water fun.

With plenty of slapstick for the children, and arch narration for the parents ("back at our very expensive waterhole set"), the film is as pumped, shiny and spectacular as George's pecs, but just a mite charmless. Perhaps when Disney photographed their safari spoof they stole away its soul.

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