George of the Jungle is a 1997 American live-action film adaptation of the cartoon of the same name. The film was produced by Walt Disney Pictures with Mandeville Films and originally released to movie theatres on July 16, 1997. It stars Brendan Fraser as the eponymous main character, a primitive man who was raised by animals in an African jungle; Leslie Mann as his love interest; and Thomas Haden Church as her treacherous fiancÃ©.
A direct-to-video sequel, George of the Jungle 2, was released on DVD in 2003, however only three of the original actors (Thomas Haden Church, John Cleese, and Keith Scott) returned for the sequel.
The film begins with an animated introduction featuring a plane heading toward "the Heart of Africa" (more specifically, a region called "Bukuvu"). The plane crashes and George, an infant/toddler, is lost, but enjoys vine swinging and crashing into trees as a running gag. 25-years-later, George (Brendan Fraser) has grown into a Tarzan-like man, the "King of the Jungle", who makes his home around Ape mountain. His friends include a sophisticated talking gorilla named Ape (voiced by John Cleese), along with a toco toucan named Tookie, a small capuchin monkey named Little Monkey, and an African elephant named Shep, whom he calls his "dog" (all voiced by Frank Welker).
San Francisco Heiress, Ursula Stanhope (Leslie Mann), is exploring the jungle on safari near George's home with the help of her guide, Mr. Kwame (Richard Roundtree) and some native porters. She has traveled to Africa alone, but is soon joined by her wealthy fiancÃ© Lyle Van De Groot (Thomas Haden Church) who has found her with the help of Max and Thor (Greg Cruttwell and Abraham Benrubi), two poachers who are posing as trackers. That evening, Mr. Kwame recounts the legend of the White Ape, said to be a huge, super-strong primate who rules the surrounding jungle.
The next day, the unept Lyle almost causes the death of one of the porters, and he abandons Ursula when the two of them are attacked by a lion. George saves Ursula and takes her to his treehouse home, and Lyle returns to the camp, claiming to have been attacked by the White Ape. While the exploration party searches for Ursula, George entertains her and teaches her to swing on vines. He also falls in love with her, so Ape advises him to woo her like a gorilla by making faces and beating his chest, as gorillas do. This fails to impress Ursula, but George wins her over with his charm, and they enjoy an evening of dancing around a campfire.
On the third day, the explorers discover George's treehouse, Lyle accidentally discharges his weapon and George gets shot in the arm as he tries to prevent Max and Thor from shooting Ape with a tranquilizer gun. While Lyle is arrested for the shooting (and called 'a big doofus' by the narrator), Ursula flies George to her home in San Francisco for medical treatment and buys clothes for him. George explores the city and saves a paraglider's life at the Bay Bridge. With George's help, Ursula finds the courage to tell her parents that she no longer wants to marry Lyle, but her overbearing mother, Beatrice Stanhope (Holland Taylor), who is intent on marrying her only to a man of wealth and prestige, threatens George to give Ursula up.
Meanwhile, Max and Thor return to the treehouse to capture Ape, knowing that he can speak. Ape manages to send Tookie all of the way to San Francisco to ask George for help. When Tookie finds George, George returns to Africa to save Ape, and after realizing that she loves George, Ursula follows. George finds the poachers at the treehouse, with Ape in a cage, and he defeats them after an extended battle, with help from Ursula and his animal family. However, Lyle appears and kidnaps Ursula with help from several mercenaries. Lyle intends to marry himself to Ursula immediately having become a mail-order minister. After escaping the mercenaries with help from his gorilla friends, George chases Lyle and Ursula as they float into some river rapids on a raft, and he then saves Ursula by making the "biggest swing in jungle history", while Lyle enters a dark tunnel. After performing his wedding ceremony and exiting the tunnel, Lyle discovers that he has just married a female gorilla. After professing their love for each other, George and Ursula later have their wedding, attended with friends and family, and ride off for their honeymoon on Shep. They later have a son and present him to the animals of the jungle on Pride Rock.
A while later, during the ending credits, Ape orders the credits to stop and reveals his fate to the audience: he has become a big singing star in Las Vegas. He is seen singing the Frank Sinatra song "My Way", with Thor and Max playing as a coconut tree in the background
- Brendan Fraser as George, a young man who was raised in the jungle like Tarzan and frequently crashes into trees while swinging on vines.
- Leslie Mann as Ursula Stanhope, a wealthy heiress
- Thomas Haden Church as Lyle van de Groot, Ursula's wealthy, despicable fiancÃ©
- Richard Roundtree as Kwame, Ursula's jungle guide
- Greg Cruttwell as Max, a poacher and tracker who works for Lyle
- Abraham Benrubi as Thor, a poacher and tracker who works for Lyle
- John Bennett Perry as Arthur Stanhope, Ursula's father
- Holland Taylor as Beatrice Stanhope, Ursula's mother
- Kelly Miller as Betsy, Ursula's friend
- Abdoulaye N'Gom as Kip, Ursula's friend and an African tour guide.
- Michael Chinyamurindi as N'Dugo, Ursula's friend and another African tour guide.
- Lydell M. Cheshier as Baleto, Ursula's friend and the third African tour guide.
- John Cleese as Ape, a well-educated talking Gorilla.
- Keith Scott as Narrator, relating the story in a voice evocative of that of Gary Owens
- Frank Welker as Lion, Little Monkey, Shep, Tooki Tooki Bird, and Gorilla sound effects
Gorilla Suit Performers
- Nameer Ed-Kadi - Ape (body)
- Tom Fisher
- Jody St. Michael
- Philip Tan
- Lief Tilden
- Robert Tygner - Ape (facial puppetry)
In the opening animated sequence, various animals swing on vines with young George, his "dog" Shep fetches a crocodile instead of a log, and a wildebeest falls in love with a bushman wearing a wildebeest mask.
In the live action film, a whole host of animals are seen. George fights with a lion, accidentally swings on a snake instead of a vine, rides an elephant, talks to a bird, and lives with various monkeys and apes.
The lion, elephant, and bird scenes were all filmed with a mix of real animals, puppetry (especially for the lion fight), and CGI (to show the elephant acting like a dog). The scenes with the orangutan, a chimpanzee, and the capuchin monkeys were filmed with live animals, but some computer work was used in a scene wherein the little monkey imitates George.
The large gorillas who live with George were all costumed actors or animatronic figures with the gorilla suits provided by Jim Henson's Creature Shop.
In the "Pride Rock" scene, when George presents his son to the animals, CGI work is again used.
Track #2, the Johnny Clegg song "Dela", also features the first few bars of the original George of the Jungle theme song.
- "George of the Jungle" (Sheldon Allman, Stanley Worth) - 2:53 - Presidents of the United States of America
- "Dela (I Know Why the Dog Howls at the Moon)" (Johnny Clegg) - 4:16 - Johnny Clegg & Savuka
- "Wipe Out" (Jim Fuller, Berryhill, Patrick Connolly, Ron Wilson) - 2:39 - The Surfaris
- "The Man on the Flying Trapeze" (Traditional) - 0:57 - Roger Freeland, Jon Joyce, Steve Lively, Gary Stockdale
- "My Way" (Paul Anka, Jacques Revaux, Claude FranÃ§ois, Gilles Thibault) - 1:11 - John Cleese
- "Aba Daba Honeymoon" (Walter Donovan, Arthur Fields) - 1:55 - Karen Harper
- "George of the Jungle" (Allman, Worth) - 1:03 - "Weird Al" Yankovic
- "Go Ape [The Dance Mix]" (Michael Becker) - 3:25 - Michael Becker
- "Jungle Band" (Michael Becker) - 3:18 - Carl Graves
- "George to the Rescue" - 1:11
- "Rumble in the Jungle" - 3:15
- "The Little Monkey" - 2:23
- "George of the Jungle [Main Title Movie Mix]" (Marc Shaiman) - 2:20
The film received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 56% from 52 critics with an average rating of 5.3/10. The consensus states: "George of the Jungle is faithful to its source material â" which, unfortunately, makes it a less-than-compelling feature film". Roger Ebert awarded the movie three out of four stars, praising the film as "good-natured" and complimenting the cast's comedic performances.
The movie debuted at No. 2 at the box office behind Men in Black, and eventually went on to become a box office success, grossing $174.4 million worldwide.
The movie was followed by a direct-to-video sequel, George of the Jungle 2, which picks up five years after the original. Most of the major characters are re-cast using different actors, although both Thomas Haden Church and John Cleese reprise their roles from the original.
- Official website
- George of the Jungle at the Internet Movie Database
- George of the Jungle at Box Office Mojo
- George of the Jungle at Rotten Tomatoes