"Jungle 2 Jungle"
Opened: February 7, 1997 | Rated: PG
In 1994 Disney bought the rights to a French movie about a Paris executive who visited his ex-wife in South America to finalize their divorce and got saddled with his jungle-raised son.
To say the movie, released in the U.S. as "Little Indian, Big City," bombed Stateside would be a kindness. To be more accurate would be to say it was one of the worst received movies of 1995, one that Disney would like to forget.
But it was too late. The studio had inked Tim Allen to star in an American remake and now we have "Jungle 2 Jungle," a contrived formula comedy that harks of Disney's saccharine family flicks of the 1960s. It has '90s sensibilities but the same 30-year-old jokes.
Allen stars as Michael Cromwell, a self-absorbed Wall Street hot-shot who travels to Venezuela to finalize his divorce from a wife who left him 14 years ago. Much to his chagrin, he must travel by canoe from Caracas to an indian village where his wife lives.
It's a hot day and on the way he cools off by dipping his handkerchief in the gentle river and wiping it on his neck (insert piranha sight gag here).
Upon arriving at the village he declares "She left me for Gilligan's Island?" before setting up his satellite modem and portable computer (insert naked, curious natives mischievously playing with Western technology).
During the obligatory native high jinks (dining on "lizard guts," rites of passage ceremonies), the wife (JoBeth Williams) announces that the white kid running around the village in a loin cloth is actually Michael's son, named Mimi Siku (insert culture clash father-son bonding scene).
The village chief says Mimi Siku will be a man when he brings fire back from the Statue of Liberty, and the rest of the movie is follows the "Crocodile Dundee" path, with a 13-year-old kid running around Manhattan with a spear and wreaking havoc on his father's life.
"Jungle 2 Jungle" is so cliche-driven that becomes non-linear and non-sensical. An example: To remind us that the kid is a fish out of water, he speaks broken English ("Mimi Siku sorry, father!") even though he learned the language from his mother, a native New Yorker.
Director John Pasquin, who did Allen a good turn in "The Santa Clause," doesn't go three minutes with trudging up some limp joke along the lines of Mimi's pet tarantula sending Dad's socialite fiancee (Lolita Davidovich) screaming to the top of a chair. Variations on this particular theme pop up at least five more times.
He also resorts to cheap shot laughs at gays in the fashion industry and detours into some oddball sub-plot involving Michael's partner (Martin Short) selling coffee futures to the Russian Mafia.
Poor Tim Allen looks positively embarrassed throughout the picture, even when he's trying to rescue it. The one truly funny scene comes when he tries to revive his fiancee's cat after hitting it with a blow dart.
Newcomer Sam Huntington plays Mimi, but is no better than any other kid picked at random from a junior high school drama class. He serves as an example of the minimal effort that went into "Jungle 2 Jungle" -- Pasquin could have re-shot the scenes in which Huntington flubs his minor calls for emotion, but seems to have said "Why bother?"