GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE is an unabashed TARZAN ripoff, but in America, if you can get away with it, ripoffs are celebrated and become franchises all their own. Yay laws of parody.
Believe it or not, GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE began as a cartoon series in 1967 (intro, above), created by Jay Ward and Bill Scott. Jay Ward also created Rocky, Bullwinkle, Peabody, Sherman and Dudley Do-Right. He might’ve been the most important man in the universe.
A mere 30 years later veteran TV director Sam Weisman got his hands on the film adaptation. Sam Weisman directed practically every episode of FAMILY TIES, while also bringing one of the top cinematic pleasures of the 1990’s (or any decade) to the big screen, in D2: THE MIGHTY DUCKS. Unfortunately, he’d spend the rest of his life trying and failing to recapture that magic (unless IN PLAIN SIGHT is super good, I don’t fucking know).
GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE takes Tarzan, a love story about a man who grew up in the jungle, and makes him dumber than a stoned Jessica Simpson. He thinks his elephant is a dog…and his elephant Shep goes along with it. It’s hilarious that Ape (a Gorilla; great name), his bestie, is far smarter than George, because George is a human, you see.
When I was a kid, I definitely thought GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE was one of the greatest fucking things I’d ever seen. I had the theme song stuck in my head for way too long, and no longer was I web-slinging from building to building like Spidey. Now I was swinging from branch to branch like a moron, with the added benefit that I could do so shirtless, and finish by hitting into things, JUST LIKE THE CHARACTER.
Recently, I revisited this film with a few of my friends (after a couple of other movies/drinks), and…it didn’t age so well.
Brendan Fraser is kind of a lovable joke today, but GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE proved to be a turning point in his career, as it must have played a helping hand in getting the leading role in THE MUMMY, which he was perfect for. Aside from Nicolas Cage, is there an actor with more awful films on his resume? MONKEYBONE, BEDAZZLED, DUDLEY DO-RIGHT, ENCINO MAN (a film that stars Fraser AND Pauly Shore, an unholy combo), etc. In 1999, Brendan Fraser was one of the biggest leading men in Hollywood after THE MUMMY hit it big. By 2003, he was in LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION. Fraser’s IMDB reads as if every 3 years he HAS to star in the most deplorable film of that particular year. He’ll always have SCRUBS.
I still think there’s a comeback in Fraser, as he could totally rock a sitcom, or some Tim Allen-like role in a SANTA CLAUSE like farce, but after watching GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE, you kind of wonder why he ever existed in the first place.
Well, them abs.
John Cleese manages to avoid any flack for being in this film, because he’s (an) Ape, and probably the best part of the movie. The fact that John Cleese is in GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE went right above my head when I was 9 and first saw this film. Today, that fact is hilarious/sad.
I feel the most sorry for Leslie Mann, because Ursula essentially makes a fool of herself the entire movie and manages to fall in love with (a more “attractive”) Forrest Gump. I’m talking out of my ass, but this role effectively killed her career until she met and married Judd Apatow. Though, she was in BIG DADDY.
You know who I don’t feel sorry for? Thomas Haden Church. His role as Lyle Van de Groot consistently proves that there can always be worse acting, and this is a movie where Fraser is bouncing around making chimp noises for 92 minutes. But at least he was enthusiastic. Thomas Haden Church was being Thomas Haden Church. Though, of course, he always is that. But in GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE, it makes everything hurt.
Thankfully in the six years between the first film and its sequel (YEAH I KNOW), I grew some self-respect, and never saw GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE 2.
Christopher Showerman, who’s only qualification was to sort of look like Brendan Fraser and look good shirtless, took the reins in the sequel. Also, he apparently rides in an airplane shirtless, which is good, because there wasn’t enough shirtless scenes in the original. It’s kind of cute that a guy named Showerman looks perpetually like he’s about to get in a shower in the film.
Hilariously enough, Thomas Haden Church reprises his role as Lyle, John Cleese also returns as Ape (who could possibly replace him?) and Angus T. Suck (above, right) in Pre-TWO AND A HALF MEN form plays George’s SON (George Jr., naturally). Even more interestingly, Leslie Mann was switched out for Julie Benz of ANGEL and DEXTER fame, meaning that two of my favorite women in Hollywood both played one of the grossest female parts in film history.
In 2007, GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE resurfaced again in cartoon form (apparently every cartoon is modeled after THE WILD THORNBERRIES), because after missing the boat in ’77 and ’87, studios have made damn sure not to miss out on the opportunity to grace us with more George in a year that coincides with its anniversary. And this is a property no one cares about.
And because I wrote entirely too much about something no one cares about, onto the booze.
GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE DRINKING GAME RULES:
1. Every time the film switches from live action to cartoon, drink.
2. Technically you could waterfall for this one, but drink every time GOTJ is “mocking”/ripping off Tarzan.
3. Drink for every crotch injury.
4. Whenever “Watch Out For That Tree!” is yelled, drink.
5. Take a sip every time George does his weird yodeling cry or makes chimp noises.
6. Waterfall for the opening theme song.
7. Drink every time Ursula calls George “fella.”
8. Sip every time the narrator says something. I’d sip liberally whenever it’s something idiotic.
9. Drink for every different kind of animal. I’d double it when they’re so obviously fake (like when George falls on top of a stuffed animal lion right before their fight/tickle/wrestle scene).
10. Sip on your beer whenever Thomas Haden Church is the worst part of this awful awful movie. The guy would somehow rebound and be nominated for an Oscar.
11. Whenever George refers to himself in the third person, drink.
12. Drink when George puts on human clothes. Society changes people. Stupid society.
13. Drink if you would go opening day if this movie happened:
EXPERT VERSION: Sip for nips. It’s a general life rule that I play by (take a sip for every nip you see; it’s kind of awkward in the bedroom, but worse on the bus), but for GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE, this rule becomes life-threatening, as it’s a veritable PARADE of nipples, since Brendan Fraser is shirtless for 99% of the film (making rule #12 all the more special). Not to mention all the ape nipples you might catch, or any of the natives.