Yankee Doodle Kong
King Kong (2005): 8 out of 10: Peter Jackson’s Kong is a long love letter to the original movie that surprisingly turns into that rarest of crowd pleasers. A movie that both men and their gals will like. Like Titanic, Kong has enough action to keep boys of all ages happy and a romance (complete with tragic ending) to get the ladies crying.
And what a romance. Kong and Naomi Watts light up the screen with that most famous of dysfunctional cross species parings. And while you may be mumbling Stockholm Syndrome at the beginning (Not to mention whiplash, jeez Jackson turn down the ragdoll physics on the Naomi Watts CGI effect. The way Kong flings her around she should end the film in a body cast) the romance seems to win even the cynics (yours truly) at the end.
The rest of the cast is also top-notch with Jack Black playing an Orson Welles style director so well it is almost frightening. Speaking of frightening, many people wondered aloud how Jackson would handle the racist caricature (by today’s standards) of the island natives, especially considering the whole disturbing white wizard versus the “dark forces” subtext of the LOTR films. Not to worry, they mock the embarrassing stereotypes of happy dancing black people in the Kong stage show putting that embarrassing Hollywood episode to rest. Instead, the residents of Skull Island are some of the scariest people ever put on film. Pushing the PG-13 rating to the limit, they put the can back in cannibal. Bashing skulls, going into voodoo trances and kidnapping white woman, they invoke the much happier stereotype of the true island savage. Hell, they are scarier than the ape.
Possible racial insensitivity aside, Kong isn’t perfect. The special effects are overall top notch but when people run with dinosaurs, the limit of the blue screen show through (And could we get a moratorium on velociraptors in movies. They are really getting cliché and being a relatively new paleontological find really don’t fit in a thirties era Kong movie. Yes, I know that isn’t logical but they kind of seem modern, as if a character had a cell phone). The other problem is length. This feels like the director’s cut. With an easy 30 minutes of film that could (and probably should) end up on the cutting room floor. We spend so much time in various Kong free Broadway theaters one might mistake this for a Yankee Doodle Dandy remake. All that said great action, scary islanders, and tragic romance make King Kong a winner.