The Bad Movie Report

King Kong Lives - if you can call it living...

Own It!

Guest Review by Giant Monkey Correspondent
Jessica "Juniper" Ritchey

One of the nicer aspects of these reviews is that they bring attention to films that would otherwise slip through the cracks. I feel King Kong Lives has been unfairly shut out of that glimmering pantheon of bad sequels. If nothing else than that by the end of this review I have convinced you that King Kong Lives deserves to take its place beside The Heretics, The Quickenings, and the Speed 2s, my work wonít have been for naught. Plus King Kong Lives has the distinction to being a sequel to a singularly bad remake. Apparently the reasoning behind this fiasco was "Well it didnít work the first time, so letís not change anything and try again!" Itís reasoning like this that gives you Batman and Robin.

The beginning of King Kong Lives is actually footage from the first movie. It was, to say the least, awkward to see Kong standing atop the Twin Towers and plunge from them after taking a barrage to the chest. Strange how reality can give the purest schlock a dazed sort of dignity. Thankfully we cut to the "Atlanta Institute" and any ambience about mocking this sucker is quickly erased. We see that the Jungle Titan has not perished but is resting comfortably under the care of Dr. Amy Franklin. Walkways have been constructed over him and large vaguely medical machines hum on his sides. We see Dr. Franklin enter the observation where after removing her surgical mask we see she is played by Linda Hamilton. She still seems to be stuck in Sarah Connor mode as she grimly faces the two men before her. It seems that Kong canít have his life saving surgery without a blood transfusion. And of course there is no species whose blood is compatible.

The three sit around making frowny faces as we cut to stock footage of a spectacular waterfall. Our hero is making his way through a humorously ersatz jungle, located I believe in Papua Not! Guinea. Itís Mitch, the unfortunate result of crossbreeding your odious comic relief and macho action star. He chastises his donkeys (No thatís not a euphemism - he actually berates them for being scared) and settles down for a nap. Is barely able to close his eyes before a disturbance underneath him raises him up. He suddenly finds himself fleeing from a giant paper mache paw. All seems lost when a bunch of extras from Raiders pop up and shoot the ape full of poison darts. The ape rears up and howls, giving us a good look at the sorriest gorilla suit this side of A*P*E, and falls to the ground.

Let me take a moment here to mention Linda Hamilton. I always liked her and wished she could have had better roles. Unfortunately the role that defined her, Sarah Connor, also got her roped into the "tough babe" ghetto. Though Iím ragging her here she does try to give an honest to god performance. Whether that was a wise decision or not Iíll leave to you to decide. But with everyone else not even bothering to act itís nice to see someone giving it the college try of a true B-movie vet. At the very least her performance supplies much of the filmís humor.

Back at the Institute, Amy enters a conference room. It seems Mitch is fielding offers for his find. A suit calls the ape a he and Mitch says itís a girl. Amy freaks out saying the strain of having a female around would kill him. She asks if they could just take the plasma and Mitch plays them along, saying Harvard is verrrry interested in the ape. She emphatically shakes her head no as the suit agrees to purchase Lady Kong.

"We're just about ready for your vasectomy, Mr. Kent."Cut to a cargo plane pulling into the tarmac. A crowd is already gathered hoping for a glimpse of the beast. Amy is there, her jaw set tight in the consternation of a five year old. Mitch pushes through the crowd to greet them. Some tense words are exchanged between him and Amy, leading the experienced viewer to set his Perfunctory Sex Scene Countdown Clock. A bellow is heard from the plane as Mitch runs to see what the trouble is. It seems some reporters are playing with his monkey*. He shoos them away and in a half-baked Texan drawl he tells them "You are dealiní with a lady here." No rest for the maiden as she is taken to the plasma center to give a transfusion.

The operation on Kong begins. Amy takes an enormous pizza cutter to Kongís chest. Mitch and a gaggle of reporters watch from the observation room. The scene is played dead straight and offers much incidental mirth as extras scamper about with oversized clamps and scissors and bemoan that they went to Goddamn Julliard and they had the lead in The Crucible and everyone said theyíd do far and this how it ends playing doctor with a plastic ape, Iíll show them I-

Sorry, got carried away there. The scene becomes quite boring and to interject some tension they have Kongís plastic ticker nearly fall from the crane and yet somehow that is boring too. The operation is declared a success.

A throng of extras celebrates the next day. A reporter fills us in on Kongís condition and the location of Lady Kong. We see her in chains picking gloomily at a pile of fruit. Sheís just an owner of a lonely heart, sing it nowÖ

Later that week at a fancy party Mitch asks were Amy is. Heís surprised to find that Amy is still watching over her patient. Back at the OR Kong begins to stir. He pulls the electrodes off him and tries to get up; he smells the female. He tries to jump to the bars at the top of the cage. The EKG begins to fluctuate, Kong clutches his chest causing many Sanford and Son jokes from the viewer. In a panic Amy pumps him full of sedatives and rushes to the party. She bursts in showing the results to head of the project. Mitch cracks a lame joke and she unleashes her full power of glowering at him. (And that clock keeps ticking and tickingÖ) Mitch quickly takes her side. And the project head agrees to have the enclosure ready in two days.

"With you it's always groom, groom, groom! Why don't we cuddle anymore?"Itís moving day and Lady Kong isnít going quietly. Bulldozers are circled around her presumably under the theory that when you have a large, dangerous animal you want to make it as angry and frightened as possible. A net is dropped on her and she howls with rage. Kong hears her and rears up and tears away his chains. He shimmies through the roof and stomps off. Amy and Mitch are trying to stop them from taking her and suddenly a crashing noise comes from the side of the screen. It seems Universal Studios were nice enough to let them use the Kong model from their ride for this shot. Kong finishes smashing through the wall and spies Lady Kong. Their eyes meet as romantic music swells in the background. The world disappears as their eyes meet. Lyz was justifiably stupefied by this moment. As the brains began to dribble out my ears the only scrap of sanity I could grasp at was that a studio exec fueled off a coke binge stumbled into work and cried, "Weíre going to remake Casablanca Öwith monkeys!" Its coke binges like this that give us movies like, well, Batman and Robin.

Kong and the missus escape and the Calvary are called. They are lead by Colonel Neville, the meanest olí son of a gun this side of the Mississippi. Iím going to do more work than the screenwriter did and assume that as a child a horde of giant apes killed his family. Thatís about the only explanation for his animosity towards the apes whose first act (outside of escaping the warehouse) has been to flee into the wilderness and leave well enough alone. Amy and Mitch join forces, theyíre not going to forget this perfunctory sex scene by god, and take to the woods. We see the apes acting out the simian version of The Fantastiks they blush and bat at each other. Kong offers her a choice pine and love is in the air.

"Okay," Dr. Freex admitted, "sometimes the pictures are just there for ME."Back to the humans, Amy has allowed her self to fall off a bridge so Mitch can rescue her and bring us ever closer toówell you know. They take cover when helicopters approach. The pair hear the apes roar and make their way to them. Itís nightfall by the time they arrive. Amy flips out a sliver briefcase. Itís a "cardio unit" and Amy checks Kongís heart. It seems the chapís doing quite well. They go awwww at the apes cuddling and go to make camp. That alarm you hear is the perfunctory sex scene clock, itís time. It seems that theyíve only brought one sleeping bag. Thereís some hemming and hawing, "are you sure about this?" and Mitch tentatively crawls into the bag. He pulls the cover over their heads and fade out.

The next morning Mitch notices that Kong is gone. They both leap up to investigate. The path of true love never runs smooth and as Kong is gathering breakfast the army appears. Well itís about time, the terrain appears to be scrub, rock formations, and a few scraggly pine thickets, not the best place for a pair of 50 foot apes to hide. Iím going to extirpate further and say that giant apes also wiped out Nevilleís platoon in ĎNam because he grudgingly captures Lady Kong and then tries to kill the big boy. Kong scrambles to escape and finds himself cornered on a cliff overlooking a river. He leaps into the water and the currents push his head against a sharp rock. The water fills with red clothing dye as Amy scrambles for the cardio unit. Alas there is no heartbeatÖ

Exposition tells us months have passed. Lady Kong is still being held captive in an underground facility. Mitch is away trying to get a preserve for Lady Kong and Amy has being trying in vain to gain entrance to the facility. Finally orders come through "The Secretary of Defense Himself!" - she can see Lady Kong. When she gets there she is horrified at her condition. She tries to go in the cage but Neville stops her. He remembers the screams of his family as the apes cameÖand quickly tosses them out.

She goes to pick up Mitch at the airport. Mitch has found a preserve for Lady Kong. He notices Amyís less than ecstatic reaction and she admits that no oneís seen Lady Kong for months. Outraged he rushes over to the facility and is beaten up by two guards for his troubles.

Oh, look.  Three crackers about to become as flat as their namesake.Cut to an 8th grade diorama of a swamp. You canít keep a good Kong down and it seems he has found a home amongst the gators. He picks up a baby gator and eats it. Thankfully the little fella turns into a marzipan model before he gets gulped. Kong returns to his cave, which you wouldnít think there would be a lot of in a swamp, and mourns for his gal. Lady Kongís thoughts are only for her man as she lightly cries into the night. Kong hears her and goes to set her free. He emerges on the set of Devil Fish and scares the bejesus out of a few dozen rednecks.

The next day boats are loaded with beer, guns, and beer. A few pieces of dead meat, er hunters, are going after him. They manage to trap him under a dynamite caused landslide. Then they bait him with a burning log from their fire. A giant ape. An enraged giant ape. And theyíre taunting him. Do I need to draw you a diagram folks?

Kong escapes and enjoys a nice good olí boy ragout before heading off. Mitch and Amy who also been on his trail find the remains of the campsite. Amy tries to adjust Kongís heart but he puts the kibosh, literally, to those plans by stepping on the machine. Mitch and Amy then decide to perpetrate a great escape of their own. They breach security at Lady Kongís fortress by crouching real low and pressing a button.

When Mitch sees her heís appalled at her distended belly. "What have they done to her?, Amy is less disturbed it seems the Lady is with child.You gots to bite de heads off dem crawdads! They go to raise the platform to the top of the silo and escape. A guard pulls a switch, seemingly putting an end to their plans. All seems lost, but then with a mighty roar Kong appears and rips the lid off the silo. He takes his lovahh and she in turn grabs Mitch. Amy screams and follows them to the final set piece of this disaster.

At a family reunion (put down the symbolism 2 by 4 now!) the lovebirds crash the party. Mme. Kong puts down Mitch then falls on the barn in the throes of labor. Neville and his troops show up and begin blasting away without provocation. I also ask: there was quite a group celebrating here earlier. Just collateral damage Colonel?

Kong shields Lady Kong and is gruesomely torn to shreds. Kong ainít going that easy and smashes a few toy tanks before taking special care with Neville. After a brutal game of pattycake Neville is no more. Kong then keels over, weíre told from a heart attack. I would have placed more stock in the "being shot 617 times" but Iím not an expert. There are some cuts between Kong dying and Lady Kong giving birth showing that some wretched soul on this project went to film school. Kong holds on long enough to see his son and dies. We return to the deciduous forests of Papua Not! Guinea and see Jr. swinging from the vines and Lady Kong tenderly looks after him. The end."Nobody cries when-a Jaws die.  When-a my Kong die, Linda Hamilton cry!"

The viewerís tolerance for King Kong Lives will depend greatly on their affection for men in suits stomping models. And furthermore that the monster in this case is a giant ape. I unabashedly love the Godzilla canon and big honkiní monkeys are a favorite offshoot of that genre. Where King Kong Lives proves a difficult plum is that outside of the monkey scenes, and sometimes even then, it is incredibly dull. You donít care about Mitch and Amy because frankly Mitch has much more chemistry with Lady Kong. You may be entertained for a few seconds by Nevilleís masticating of the scenery but soon youíre hoping for Kong to come a-callin' and fast. The humor that lies in the apesís scenes is basically in the lousy construction of the suits, and that they give you an idea of what those Rock Hudson/Doris Day features would have been like had chimps played the leads. Outside of hardcore monster movie fans and Linda Hamilton completists itís nothing to go bananas over.

RATING:

Monkey business as usual

- July 2, 2002