Congo is the story of Amy, a gorilla in captivity whose caretakers decide that it's time to return their ward to her native jungle. Amy, who is pretty fluent in sign language (for a gorilla), has been plagued by nightmares lately and her scientist buddy Peter, played here by Dylan Walsh, (who is about as Steve Guttenbergish as you can get without hiring Steve Guttenberg) decides that the nightmares can mean only one thing. Amy must be taken back to the Congo.
Congo is also the story of corporate communications technology specialist, Karen Ross, whose ex-fiance and business partner, Charles (played in a cameo by Bruce Campbell) has gone missing in the Congo during a search for a legendary diamond mine. Charles' boss and father, R.B., (Joe Don Baker) is desperate to find the diamonds but not necessarily his son. He sends Karen on a follow-up expedition to locate both, armed with a bunch of expensive equipment that you just know is going to wind up trashed.
As fate will have it, the two parties wind up sharing a safari into the deepest jungles of Africa. They are joined by a guide, played with a ridiculous English accent by Ernie Hudson, and by a treasure hunting lunatic, played with a ridiculous Slavic accent by Tim Curry.
Congo is a beautiful movie and this DVD does it justice. The color is brilliant and the jungle sound track takes full advantage of the Dolby possibilities. Monkeys and birds chirped and called from various corners of my living room and the tropical ambient sounds were so lush that I could almost feel the mist on my skin.
Unfortunately, Congo is also a movie that never finds its direction. There is mention of political strife in Africa that is barely touched upon, there is the hint of a romantic entanglement between Steve Gut-I mean Peter and Karen, but that too is never developed, Tim Curry's treasure hunter is so pointless that I was almost insulted by his presence (and really, I like Tim Curry). The special effects during the action scenes at the end consist of Laura Linney (the best performance in the film, by the way) pulling a Terminator 2 pose with a laser rifle.
For some reason, Michael Crichton movie adaptations have a tendency to be a little more cartoonish than they deserve to be. This movie, with its ridiculous men in ape suits, talking gorilla, put-on accents and bumbling sincerity is completely watchable but totally forgettable. So the fact that the DVD transfer is so damn good is bittersweet news.
Amy Morrison, 11/1/00