I remember watching Congo as a kid and simply loving it. At its core, Congo is a relatively simplistic adventure movie with a couple of gimmicks that make it stand out from the rest of the crowd. This comes as no surprise since it’s loosely based on Michael Crichton’s 1980 novel of the same name. He’s the guy behind some of our favorite nineties movies like Jurassic Park, Twister, Sphere, and The 13th Warrior. Since I have not read the novel, I cannot tell you what they made up or used from the novel. However, that’s really not the point.
What we have here is a blend of action, adventure, and comedy trying to update adventure movies of the old with modern technology. You have satellites, lasers, computers, and freaking talking gorillas on one side. A lost city, ancient tribes, treasure, and wild nature on the other side. The whole thing feels a bit clunky but it still manages to offer a nice dose of escapism. Especially if you like movies set on the African continent. Now, the script is also wobbly with only a handful of jokes landing along with a couple of irritating characters.
Amy, the talking gorilla is one of them. I mean, the concept seems very intelligent and even revolutionary but it adds almost nothing to the movie. I was able to look past these flaws and still have some fun with Congo. And not just because I was feeling nostalgic and wanted to watch something exotic. Tim Curry was excellent as Herkermer Homolka along with young Laura Linney and charismatic Ernie Hudson. However, I will not forgive them for casting Dylan Walsh instead of Bruce Campbell.
Communication giant TraviCom is looking for the next big thing in this field. They set their eyes on a flawless diamond located somewhere deep in the jungles of Congo. So, they send an expedition to recover it but it disastrously fails. Now, Dr. Karen Ross, a former CIA operator mounts a second effort under the guise of returning one homesick gorilla to its natural habitat. A very dangerous natural habitat.
As you can read, Congo is a very cheesy adventure complete with bizarre decision-making and heavy-handed messaging. This means you shouldn’t take it too seriously. If you want, you can keep trashing it throughout. Making fun of all the cringy dialogue or cliched scenes is half the fun for some. For others, it will be a diamond in the rough perhaps reminding them of their childhood. I recently rewatched Romancing The Stone and The Jewel of the Nile, two similar movies, and they felt weaker than Congo.
With a pretty fast pacing, exotic setting, and crazy plot, this movie is quite an adventure in itself. And the special effects along with some of the sets vary wildly in quality. Perhaps it’s this rollercoaster of sights and sounds that make Congo more appealing than it ought to be. And there’s a certain level of honesty and glee throughout the whole movie. Finally, I want to add that despite the prominence of the gorilla Amy, you can completely focus on the main plot without any issues.
What I mean to say is that Congo is not one of those gorilla movies that were so popular at that time. Movies like Instinct, Gorillas in The Mist, George of The Jungle and Mighty Joe Young. Of course, just a couple of years later we will get the remake of Planet of the Apes directed by Tim Burton. Oddly enough, the reboot of the franchise that started with Rise of the Planet of the Apes was stunningly good and it still holds up.
Director: Frank Marshall
Writers: Michael Crichton, John Patrick Shanley
Cast: Laura Linney, Tim Curry, Dylan Walsh, Ernie Hudson, Grant Heslov, Joe Don Baker, Mary Ellen Trainor
Fun Facts: The diamonds you can see during the finale were real. Herkimer Diamond Mines of Middleville, New York borrowed them and in return Tim Curry’s character was named Herkimer.