Mighty Joe Young (1998 film)
|Mighty Joe Young|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ron Underwood|
|Produced by||Ted Hartley
|Written by||Merian C. Cooper
|Music by||James Horner|
|Editing by||Paul Hirsch|
|Distributed by||Walt Disney Pictures|
|Release date(s)||December 25, 1998|
|Running time||114 minutes|
|Box office||$50,632,037 (United States)|
Mighty Joe Young is a 1998 Disney family film starring Bill Paxton and Charlize Theron, and directed by Ron Underwood (best known for directing City Slickers & Tremors). It is based on the 1949 film of the same name. In this version, the ape is much larger than in the original.
Jill Young is seen as a child at the beginning of the film when she witnesses the death of her mother, Ruth Young (Linda Purl), and the mother of Joe, an infant mountain gorilla, at the hands of poachers led by Andrei Strasser (Rade Šerbedžija). Strasser loses his right thumb and trigger finger to Joe, and swears revenge on the gorilla for the damage. Before she dies, Ruth tells Jill to take care of Joe, to which Jill agrees. Twelve years later, Jill has raised Joe (who, because of a rare genetic anomaly, has now grown to the size of 16 1/2-feet (5 meters) and weighs 2200 pounds (1000 kilograms); as a result, the other gorillas won't accept him and both are now living in relative peace until a wildlife refuge director, Gregg O'Hara (Bill Paxton), convinces Jill that they would be safer from poachers if they relocate to the United States.
The trio goes to Hollywood in Los Angeles, California (just like in the original film) and win the hearts of the refuge staff. There, Jill is approached by Strasser, who is now running a fake animal preserve while really selling animal organs off on the black market - who has seen a news report about Joe and is now eager for revenge. At first Jill fails to recognize Strasser as the poacher who killed both her mother and Joe's, since Strasser hides his right hand in his coat pocket. Strasser tries to persuade Jill that Joe would be better off in his wildlife refuge back in Africa. Later, during a gala, Strasser's henchman, Garth, uses a poacher's noisemaker to scare Joe into a frenzy. Joe trashes the gala, recognizes Strasser and tries to attack him. Joe is then captured and placed in a concrete bunker. Before their departure, Gregg has fallen in love with Jill and he kisses her goodbye.
When Jill learns that Joe may be euthanized, she decides to take Strasser's offer. She and the refuge staff smuggle Joe out in a truck. On the way to the airport, Jill notices the half-glove covering Strasser's missing fingers, and realizes who he really is. She briefly fights with Strasser and Garth, then jumps from the truck and into the street. Joe sees her and rocks the truck over onto its side and escapes. Meanwhile, Gregg has realized that Strasser is a poacher and goes after both Jill and Joe. He finds Jill, who reveals to Gregg that Strasser killed her mother and plans to kill Joe. They locate Joe at a carnival where he is playfully wreaking havoc. Strasser arrives and attempts to shoot Jill. But Garth pushes Strasser's gun away from Jill, causing him to fire at a spotlight, which starts a fire and causes the Ferris wheel to break down. Realizing how ruthless Strasser truly is, Garth says that he quits, but Strasser knocks Garth unconscious with his gun. Strasser eventually confronts Jill and attempts to kill her, but Joe sneaks up behind them and tosses Strasser into the air, where he grips onto electrical wires over a transformer. Short two fingers on the hand holding the wire, Strasser is electrocuted when his grip fails and he falls into the transformer, leaving only the half-glove hanging from the wiring. In a poignant scene at the Santa Monica Pier, while saving a child, Joe falls from the collapsing Ferris wheel (the scene is reminiscent of King Kong falling from the Empire State Building). Joe survives the fall and is shipped back to Africa to run free on his own refuge funded by donations from various people who supported Joe's freedom.
- Bill Paxton as Professor Gregory "Gregg" O'Hara: He is a wildlife teacher who comes to Africa to study animals and befriends Jill Young.
- Charlize Theron as Jill Young: She is a young woman who raised Joe since he was a baby after their mothers were killed by poachers.
- Frank Welker as Mighty Joe Young: He is a gigantic mountain gorilla who is brought to California to be safe from poachers.
- Rade Šerbedžija as Andrei Strasser: He is the poacher who killed both Joe and Jill's mothers.
- Regina King as Cecily Banks: She is a doctor at the Animal Preserve in California where Joe is brought to.
- Peter Firth as Garth: Strasser's right-hand man.
- Naveen Andrews as Pindi: Gregg O'Hara's guide in Africa.
- David Paymer as Harry Ruben: Director of the Animal Preserve in California.
- Robert Wisdom as Kweli
- Christian Clemenson as Jack
- Geoffrey Blake as Vern
- Lawrence Pressman as Doctor Elliot Baker
- Linda Purl as Doctor Ruth Young
- Mika Boorem as Young Jill Young
- Cory Buck as Jason
- Liz Georges as Jason's Mother
- Ray Harryhausen as Gentleman at Party: Harryhausen was an animator for the original Mighty Joe Young.
- Terry Moore as Elegant Woman at Party: Moore starred as Jill Young in the original Mighty Joe Young.
Cinematographer Donald Peterman suffered head injuries, a broken leg and broken ribs due to a crane accident on the film set in 1997. A cameraman was also injured in the accident, which plummeted Peterman's camera platform 18 feet to the ground when the crane snapped.
This is one of very few films produced in recent decades under the name of RKO Pictures.
The music for the film was composed and conducted by James Horner. The soundtrack was released in December 1998.
|Mighty Joe Young: Original Score|
|Film score by James Horner|
|Released||December 8, 1998|
|James Horner chronology|
Track listing 
|1.||"Sacred Guardian of the Mountain"||3:57|
|5.||"Our Last Chance – A New World"||3:48|
|6.||"A Broken Promise"||4:31|
|7.||"Leaving by Night"||5:14|
|11.||"The Burning Ferris Wheel"||7:36|
|12.||"Dedication and Windsong"||9:44|
The movie grossed $50,632,037 with a production budget of $90 million, thus becoming a box office bomb, due to competition with The Prince of Egypt, The Rugrats Movie, Babe: Pig in the City, A Bug's Life, and Patch Adams.
Critically, Mighty Joe Young had a better reception than the year's other big monster remake, Roland Emmerich's Godzilla; however it ultimately received mixed reviews, some critics criticizing it as being typically 'Disney' in plot and outcome. The movie holds a rating of 52% from Rotten Tomatoes.
- Mighty Joe Young at the Internet Movie Database
- Mighty Joe Young at Rotten Tomatoes
- Mighty Joe Young at AllRovi