Jay Ward Movies
"George of the Jungle"
In 1997, Disney brought life to the classic "George of the Jungle". A contract between Ward Productions and Buena Vista (A Disney company) made this bizarre partnership possible. This movie goes deeper into the George's origin than the cartoon ever attempted.
George (Brendon Fraser) is the sole survivor of a plane crash when he was a child. The apes of the jungle took him in and raised him as their own, teaching him the ways of the wild. While on safari, Ursula Stanhope (Leslie Mann) is saved from near death by George. She is quick to show him the civilized way of man, which leads to comedic situations. Ursula's boyfriend, Lyle (Thomas Hayden Church), steps in and brings George back with him to San Francisco. While Lyle attempts to poach Doggie, George's pet elephant, Ursula is preoccupied with helping George back into city life.
The move is somewhat of a stretch of an interpretation of the cartoon. The story was always intended to be a comedic retelling of Tarzan, but this film tries to introduce real feeling and drama, leaving the plot somewhere in the realm of comedy-romance much more than a parody.
Although I love the George of the Jungle cartoon, I have to say this movie did not do it justice. While box office numbers might disagree, I feel the movie failed due to the attempt to turn it into a romantic comedy. This watered-down Tarzan parody seems a bit too simple and unrealistic. Although the star, Brendon Fraser has a noteworthy acting ability, he would have been better off making Encino Man 2. He's great at playing a loveable doofus in an action film, but the expanded storyline was a bit too much for my liking.
George of the Jungle has always been about simple slap-stick comedy with a overly-confident "king of the jungle" embarrassing himself. Since the cartoon was a parody of "Tarzan" series, it is no surprise they tried to create the a domesticated love interest, Urusla. In the movie, we see George as a savage that is just a tad too wild to really settle with Ursula. This is a totaly flip from the series, since George is usually the most sane in the jungle. Jay Ward and June Foray had a magic chemistry to create off-beat, loopy, earthy, sassy, and unpredictable females. Removing the core of who Urusla immediately brought this movie down a notch. She is nothing more than a shallow socialite that has to make a complete turn around in order to accept George fully. This change seems to me more of Disney's attempt to cliche the romantic comedy to death! At some point they wanted to make this into Tarzan-like theatrical fare, while failing to realize this was a parody entirely.
It would be better if it wasn't based off the cartoon. As a stand-alone family film, the acting is solid, and the special effects are memorible. The animals add a creepy, yet cartoon-ish quality to the movie that will surely attract children to the screen. Brendon Fraser dawns a skimpy loin cloth which gathered the the attention of Hollywood press since the first days of shooting. In retrospectives before the film's release, Mr. Fraser's diet and workout routine were amply noted in interviews and print (sometimes even more than his acting ability). On an up note, the film's trailers did offer that satisfying "crash" of George into that tree and a snippet of the theme song. It isn't Tarzan or The Jungle Book, but its about as wild as you can get for a Disney movie.
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Encoding: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only.)
Format: Color, Closed-captioned, DTS Surround Sound, Widescreen, Animated
Aspect Ratio(s): 1.33:1
Audio Encoding: Dolby Digital 2.0
Studio: Disney Studios
DVD Release Date: March 2, 2004