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Mighty Joe Young Mighty Joe Young and The Waterboy

A Couple of Big, Likeable Apes

We didn't expect too much from either Mighty Joe Young or the Waterboy. After all, remakes aren't generally very good - and the record of ex-Saturday Night Live people is also pretty spotty. Well, we were wrong on both counts - so make our crow medium rare.

Disney's Mighty Joe Young is a remake of an old RKO Picture that tried to recapture the magic of 1933's King Kong. It didn't, really, though it did have the distinction of introducing filmgoers to the work of a young Ray Harryhausen - who went on to create some of Hollywood's most memorable movie monsters.

The new Joe Young stars (besides the gorilla), Charlize Theron as Jill Young, the "gorilla" of Joe's dreams. She's the daughter of a late anthropologist who has spent her short life taking care of Joe in his African home. Bill Paxton plays a likeable (nice change, eh?) anthropologist who happens across Jill and Joe in the jungle and offers them a way to avoid ending up as a poacher's trophy.

The action then moves to LA, where Joe is put on display at a wildlife farm. Naturally, he's a hit (a BIG hit!), but - also naturally - something goes awry and Joe runs amok. Along the way we're treated to the special effects-laden scenes of destruction we've come to expect.

We won't give away the ending, except to say that we didn't expect it - and that's a good sign for this movie.

Mighty Joe Young is a bit warm and fuzzy, but not overly so. It's also suitable for the whole family and - in the grand Disney tradition - will entertain all ages.

The widescreen (and only 1.85:1 widescreen) DVD picture and the Dolby Digital audio are terrific. As with other Disney DVD releases we've reviewed, however, extras aren't particularly extra. You get chapter stops, the trailer, and a featurette that's little more than a trailer. Liner notes consist only of a chapter list.

The Waterboy

Touchstone's The Waterboy tells the tale of a kind-hearted oaf whose life goal is to be waterboy for a football team. From such a humble concept, however, emerges a pretty good comedy. As played by Adam Sandler, Bobby Boucher is a sympathetic, mama's boy oddball who gets dumped upon by life in general.

After being fired from his job, he finds work as waterboy for a team of chronic losers coached by Henry Winkler - who discovers that Bobby has more to offer than just "high quality H2O." Bobby begins playing for the team - against his mother's wishes and behind her back - and tastes his first peer acceptance.

The Waterboy's cast is rounded out by Kathy Bates as Bobby's mama, Fairuza (Return to Oz, no less) Balk as Bobby's girlfriend, kind of, Vicki, and Jerry Reed as Bobby's ex-coach nemesis. They all turn in good performances in a film that offers more substance and style than its formulaic roots would hint at.

This DVD is also available only in widescreen, with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Picture quality, and Dolby Digital audio quality, are up to DVD standards. Unfortunately, the extras are also pretty sparse. There's a French language track, a production featurette that's a glorified trailer, and the trailer. Liner notes are non-existent other than the box's back panel and a chapter listing.

As DVD movies, Mighty Joe Young and The Waterboy are both well worth seeing - especially as rentals. We'd like to see Disney exploit the DVD format better, however, offering movie collectors more reason to buy their discs - extras like directors' commentaries and the things we've come to see on "special edition" DVD's from other studios.

Mighty Joe Young, from Walt Disney Pictures
114 minutes, widescreen Dolby Digital
Starring Charlize Theron, Bill Paxton, and "Joe"
Produced by Ted Hartley and Tom Jacobson, Written by Mark Rosenthal & Lawrence Konner, Directed by Ron Underwood

The Waterboy, from Touchstone Pictures
90 minutes, widescreen Dolby Digital
Starring Adam Sandler, Kathy Bates, Henry Winkler and Fairuza Balk
Produced by Robert Simmonds and Jack Garraputo, Written by Tim Herlihy and Adam Sandler, Directed by Frank Coraci


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Updated May 13, 2006