Mighty Joe Young (1998) brought the lovable 15 foot tall gorilla back when ape movies were all the rage. The 90’s saw the development of another King Kong remake, a Planet of the Apes remake, and of course Mighty Joe Young. Disney obtained the rights, but the defunct RKO Pictures still have their name on it. Terry Moore and Ray Harryhausen even make cameos. Like many family films released in the late 90’s, I have vague childhood memories of watching the movie. I might of even seen Mighty Joe Young (1998) in theaters, but I never got a straight answer. I didn’t realize it was a remake until I saw my parents watching the original.
Creature effects from the legendary Rick Baker are literally the biggest draw. Joe’s enormous size is addressed as a form of gigantism. He was achieved through a combination of stuntman John Alexander in a realistic gorilla suit, very convincing animatronics, and DreamQuest CGI to blend it all together. It was of course nominated for Best Visual Effects at the Academy Awards, but the rest of the movie doesn’t compare. Director Ron Underwood has a very hit or miss track record. Mighty Joe Young (1998) is more environmental with Joe never performing in shows. Joe is only ever taken to an L.A. nature preserve.
Jill Young is now orphaned the same day as Joe by a ruthless poacher that was also added to the remake. Charlize Theron was born to play Jill since she is in fact South African. Bill Paxton is a fine zoologist version of Gregg with more of a romantic subplot. Joe causes a rampage while enclosed and on the city streets, but he proves himself a hero similar to the original. It’s just a burning carnival instead of an orphanage. Mighty Joe Young (1998) is a harmless live-action Disney movie, but it’s not quite as spectacular as the 1949 classic.
Remake of: Mighty Joe Young (1949)