Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: John Pasquin
Stars: Tim Allen, Sam Huntington, Martin Short, Lolita Davidovich, JoBeth Williams, David Ogden Stiers, Bob Dishy.
Running Time: 105 minutes.
Based on a little known French farce entitled Un Indien Dans La Ville (aka Little Indian, Big City), this disappointing Disney produced family oriented comedy reunites tv’s popular Home Improvements star Tim Allen with John Pasquin, the director of 1994’s surprise hit The Santa Clause. However, the pair seem unable to recapture that magic with Jungle 2 Jungle, a fairly brainless and lacklustre comedy lumbered with a title that is almost as clumsy as most of its attempts at humour. Even with their frantic reworking of the age old plot about a man who rediscovers his essential humanity through the son he never knew existed, Pasquin and Allen seem unable to inject much life, imagination or originality into the rather stale and uninspired material.
Allen’s wise-cracking performance is typical of what audiences have come to expect of him, and he is perfectly suited to his role here as Michael Cromwell, a self-centred, stressed out, workaholic New York stock broker. Cromwell is all set to marry his vapid fiancee Charlotte (Lolita Davidovich, from Blaze, etc), but a small hitch develops when he attempts to get his ex-wife (JoBeth Williams, from Wyatt Earp, etc) to sign the divorce papers. She is a noble doctor who walked out on him thirteen years earlier to devote her life to healing the natives in a remote South American village somewhere on the Amazon.
When Sam arrives at the village she informs him that the strange teenage white boy running around the jungle in little more than a loin cloth is his son. Worse still, the chief of the tribe has decided to send Miki back to New York to gather fire from the Statue of Liberty as some sort of bizarre test of his manhood. Somewhat reluctantly, Michael takes Miki back to New York for a brief visit, exchanging one jungle for another (thus the title), setting the scene for yet another feeble, terribly clichéd, formulaic and predictable variation on the old fish out of water story. Miki (an engaging performance from newcomer Sam Huntington) spends a lot of time running around New York in a loin cloth, urinating in door ways and on pot plants, climbing buildings and generally making Cromwell’s life more stressful than it was before. Eventually though, Cromwell bonds with his new found son despite the fact that his well-ordered life is crumbling around him, and becomes more human.
Like Crocodile Dundee, Jungle 2 Jungle centres around the inevitable clash of cultures, but the film is laboured and uneven, and fails to inspire many laughs. You know you’re in trouble when the film’s best moments revolve around a comatose cat and an animatronic tarantula. The subplot involving the fluctuating price of coffee shares and a Russian gangster (MASH‘s David Ogden Stiers) is rather ham fisted and ultimately irrelevant to the overall film itself.
Allen’s wonderful deadpan delivery and a few great one-liners are the few really positive aspects of this disappointing farce. He manages to bring a touch of vulnerability and decency to his role as the hapless, stressed out executive learning about the responsibilities of fatherhood, and his strong presence carries the material. Perennial second string comic Martin Short contributes some physical humour as Cromwell’s hyper partner, but his incessant mugging almost belongs to a completely different movie altogether.