Watching Mighty Joe Young is like wandering into the heart of Disney adventure pictures where not a hair is out of place, morals remain intact and nerves are stretched before falling back into place. The only real difference between this and tales of yore is that the plucky blonde heroine is now fully in charge.And in this case, in charge of a 2000lb mountain ape named Joe.
Jill Young (Theron from Devil's Advocate) was orphaned by the same poachers who killed the mother of a baby gorilla. Twelve years later Jill and Joe have bonded and while Jill's mother was once a legend among primatologists, Joe is now a legend of the mountain. Not surprising since a rare genetic condition saw him sprout from cuddly chimp to a 20-foot gorilla of a gorilla.
Enter conservationist Gregg O'Hara (Paxton) who, chasing the legend convinces Jill that the only way for Joe to be truly safe is by packing him off to Los Angeles! Unfortunately, the poacher (Serbedzija from Broken English) watches cable TV and is soon plotting ways of selling primate parts to his butcher. A lot of breast beating ensues before Joe does a scaled down King Kong at the amusement park and, after a brief shock, lives happily ever after back in Africa.
Strictly for ten-year-olds, Mighty Joe Young has its ample heart in exactly the right place. After an opening sequence that will have kiddies reaching for Kleenex, the action soon picks up with many a thrill on the way. This is not Jurassic Park however and doesn't really deserve its Academy nomination for effects.However, what it loses in CGI is more than made up for with an enlightened moral code: girls do know what they're doing; neither animals nor people belong in cages and the American way is not for everyone. Pleasingly refreshing for a kiddie flick in the 90's. ---Colin Fraser