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Overall Rating

Awesome: 25.37%
Worth A Look: 10.45%
Average: 7.46%
Pretty Bad: 23.88%
Total Crap32.84%

5 reviews, 37 user ratings

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by Rob Gonsalves

"For those who thought 'Patch Adams' was too starkly realistic."
1 stars

Perhaps I am not the ideal audience for 'Instinct.' Such heavy message movies are meant to be inspirational and uplifting, but they mostly just make me angry -- they inspire me to uplift myself from the theater seat and head for the exit. 'Instinct' is yet another spiritual weepie that decries human follies and yet puts a happy face on it all. It serves up chicken soup for the soul while pretending that the soup isn't made of dead chickens.

The movie runs on a low-powered, inoffensive Hollywood engine -- the same one that kept Phenomenon chugging all the way to the bank. I mention that 1996 John Travolta weepie because it, like Instinct, was directed by Jon Turteltaub and written by Gerald Di Pego. Both movies stack the deck for themselves by taking a star most people like and casting him as an ordinary guy with unusual passions who is persecuted, poked, and prodded for his troubles. These men are better than you and me, you see; they are in tune with nature, the cosmos, and movie clichés.

In Instinct, the misunderstood saint is Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Ethan Powell, an anthropologist who lived among the gorillas in the African wild for two years. At some point, Powell went bonkers, killing two men and seriously wounding three others. The movie somberly works up to the big revelation (What drove him to murder?) as if we couldn't already guess, as if we hadn't seen Gorillas in the Mist. I guess Dr. Theo Calder (Cuba Gooding Jr.) hasn't seen it either; this ambitious young shrink can break through a woman's Pope obsession early in the movie, but he takes forever to figure out what makes Powell tick.

Aside from the director and writer, both of whom have yet to impress me, Instinct is the feeble one-handed work of many talented hands (including the two Oscar-winning stars) who have seen much better days. Ace cinematographer Philippe Rousselot (who won his Oscar for A River Runs Through It) finds no beauty in the lush African jungle; top-flight monster-maker Stan Winston (he got his Oscar for Aliens) builds some fake gorillas, but unfortunately he's no Rick Baker, and the noble beasts are elegantly-sculpted, blatantly obvious latex. Even the usually idiosyncratic Danny Elfman (no Oscars yet, but two nominations) falls into sub-Lion King drums and weepy violins for his score here. As for the stars, Hopkins does nothing he hasn't done before, and Gooding overdoes Theo's sensitivity; he always seems just about to cry, and when he finally does, it doesn't move us.

There's about enough material here for an hour-long episode of TV drama, so the filmmakers toss in a lot of extraneous padding, like Powell's estranged daughter (poor Maura Tierney, stuck with some of the worst lines) and every sequence dealing with the backward prison where Powell is being held -- an allegedly heart-tugging moment involving the defiant ripping of playing cards should be ripe for vicious parody if the movie is a hit.

Which it may well be. Instinct may fill a need in the mass audience, just as Phenomenon did and Patch Adams did. Apparently we need to be told that we've lost our way, that we've misplaced our souls on the fast track to the millennium. Which may very well be true, but these movies also tell us that we can regain our nobility if we just believe, and open our hearts, and go stand out in the rain or something.

Are people so stressed and spiritually exhausted now that they need to find meaning in this hypocritical Hollywood New Age fluff? (I'd like to know how many natural resources were conserved in the making of 'Instinct.') Past a certain point, chicken soup for the soul becomes horseshit for the brain.

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originally posted: 01/23/07 14:44:37
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User Comments

4/01/13 Marty L This movie can only be fully appreciated after reading "Ishmael." 4 stars
7/24/08 Shaun Wallner Hopkins is great!! one of my all time favs! 5 stars
7/27/07 fools♫gold Story about a guy who thinks he knows what happened two million years ago. 5 stars
11/29/06 Mr smith jack bourbon is a homo 4 stars
6/22/06 TB I Love that wild man! 4 stars
11/16/05 Kenneth Ingenius 5 stars
8/30/05 ES It-stinks 2 stars
8/15/05 Themis Stratinakis Great movie with an environmental view 5 stars
7/08/05 R.W. Welch Hopkins does psycho as well as anybody, but Gooding is miscast. 3 stars
11/27/04 Robert Lee I thought this movie was absolutly terrific and one of the best ones I have seen in a long 5 stars
12/20/03 Charles Tatum Surprisingly good "Silence of the Gorillas in the Mist" 4 stars
12/01/03 Juan Xavier One of the best movie I've ever seen 4 stars
5/12/03 Jack Bourbon Cuba hams it up, and he's the hammiest ham-upping ham of all the hammy ham-sters in hamdom. 1 stars
4/04/03 Jack Sommersby Another Jon Turteltaub stinker. 1 stars
9/11/01 Roy Smith It wasn't over my head, it just totally failed to fill it with anything other than cliches. 1 stars
6/15/01 Monday Morning The message was everything. Free Anthony! Whack the gorilla-killers! 5 stars
5/28/01 cinkcool Very good message. Too deep for most people i guess. 5 stars
4/17/01 J Duh... what desdomona said. 5 stars
10/05/00 harrison langdon Over most people's heads 5 stars
8/10/00 Terrie Smith Nothing really exceptional; actors have to cope with a mundane script. 3 stars
4/29/00 Negative Norm As good,if not better than shite(well,almost)! 1 stars
3/01/00 Ionicera It's bad. Oh, it's bad. 1 stars
10/11/99 Mike Best movie I've ever seen. 5 stars
10/07/99 sophia962 Terrified me that Hopkins had started drinking again. Embarassingly bad. 1 stars
8/26/99 Brenton Millard Total crap - at least it was free! 1 stars
8/01/99 Obi Wan Ok flick...but I kept dozing off....also thought sometimes I was watching Dr. Lechter! 3 stars
7/24/99 Gawain Mclachlan The instinctual approach is to leve it in the wilderness! 2 stars
6/23/99 J. Gonzalez unable to clasify as drama, adventure, comedy or suspense thriller, uncommon plot. 2 stars
6/19/99 Mr Ebert Nothing happens in this movie that has not been sanctioned by long usage in other films. 1 stars
6/14/99 Tristynn Loved it, but hope to never see it again.. I smell an oscar for Cuba...amazing performance 4 stars
6/14/99 Mr Variety Awkward, sluggish, finally ludicrous mix is half-baked on all counts 1 stars
6/13/99 Daddy Rich Gooding was very good. A little slower than I thought, but good. 4 stars
6/10/99 David Manipulative, trite, and boring, despite good performances 1 stars
6/08/99 Savahoo Not the worst film in history, but not an Academy Award winner either. Hopkins was good. 3 stars
1/25/99 Meepos. You were just left with a feeling that you were lacking something after you saw it. 2 stars
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  04-Jun-1999 (PG-13)



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