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King Kong

Genre: Action/Adventure
Rated: PG-13
Directed by
Released by:
Universal Pictures

In Short: Beauty once again kills the Beast in Peter Jackson's amazing re-visioning of the "King Kong" myth.

Kong Lives—and Rules
The Giant Ape Returns With a Roar

By Jenny Peters

From the stylized art-deco opening credits to the emotional finale, Peter Jackson's three-hour vision of the classic tale of "King Kong" flies by, despite the fact that the story is a familiar one and the giant ape doesn't roar onscreen for almost an hour into the film. It's a testament to Jackson's prowess as a storyteller and visual artist, as the intersecting events that bring together the main characters are as compelling as the later, more eye-popping adventure sequences.

The story begins in New York City in the midst of the Great Depression, when pretty, blonde actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) meets shady filmmaker Carl Denham (Jack Black) and scriptwriter Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody). Along with a small film crew they board a tramp steamer ostensibly bound for Singapore, with plans to shoot an adventure movie along the way. But fate (and Denham's manipulations) take them to an uncharted island, where they find crazed natives, fearsome creatures and the incredible Kong.

The huge ape is amazingly realized, which comes as no surprise considering Peter Jackson's past ventures with the "Lord of the Rings" movies. Despite his towering size, Kong's movements are still realistic, and he displays an impressive range of emotions, particularly when he falls in love with Ann. Kong is an awesome blend of CGI and the acting skills of Andy Serkis, which result in a completely realistic and sympathetic central character of this ultimately tragic love story. Combining such a great character with wild action sequences juxtaposed with quieter personal moments, Peter Jackson has created a movie that follows the 1933 original closely, while carving out a clear position as a truly individual remake.

Jackson's "King Kong" is a triumph, with perhaps the only slight stumble being the casting of Jack Black as the roguish filmmaker. His performance just doesn't quite work, especially in contrast to Watts and Brody, whose Oscar pedigrees (she as nominee, he as winner) are obvious in their terrific performances. However, that complaint is easy to overlook, as every other element of the movie works to perfection, right down to Kong's final iconic moments atop the Empire State Building.

One warning to parents: the extended action/jeopardy sequences on Skull Island are seriously intense and scary, so know that children might be too young to watch them without causing some lasting fears. Of course, those are a key part of what makes "Kong" such a great ride for those of us old enough to take it.

(Published: 12/14/05)

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