review for George of the Jungle on AllMovie

George of the Jungle (1997)
by Derek Armstrong review

If the Pauly Shore vehicle Encino Man served a useful purpose, it may have been to demonstrate the perfect pairing of Brendan Fraser and any role requiring primitive grunts and loincloths. And so it was, five years later, that Fraser's enthusiastic ape mannerisms found a more flattering home with George of the Jungle, Disney's live-action adaptation of the Jay Ward cartoon. Buoyed by a satirically over-dramatic narrator who banters with the characters, the film breezes through its running time, making the "watch out for that tree" joke a few too many times, but not to excess. The casting of Fraser might have been so natural as to seem obvious, but the producers picked a fortuitous supporting cast that does as much as the lead to animate this cartoon jungle. Leslie Mann is an ideal compliment in the Jane role, with the voice of a purring kitten and the googly eyes of a silent film star. As Mann's fiancée, sitcom malcontent Thomas Haden Church takes boorishness to similar extremes. Jim Henson's workshop also plays a role in establishing tone, but not as integrally as one might think. They get good mileage from the impractically rambunctious elephant Shep, but George's benefactor, the ape named Ape, receives too much attention from the camera to work as a seamless effect. John Cleese's persona does not synch up well with the character, his readings too effete and detached for this cuddly world.