King Kong (1976)
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that kids will see some sexually-charged scenes and violence. Scantily clad natives thrust suggestively during a ritual. We get a fleeting glimpse of breasts. Kong's in love with his female hostage and, as hard as it is to believe, some of their scenes together are erotically charged. Kong tears the jaw off a fake-looking giant snake. The shootout finale goes overboard on squirting blood.
What's the story?
An expedition to a mysterious fog-shrouded island turns up not fuel oil as Petrox emissary Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin) had hoped, but a giant ape, which only stowaway Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges) had anticipated. The ape, who the natives call Kong, falls for the crew's only female, Dwan (Jessica Lange), and stomps off with her. Not wanting to leave the island empty-handed, Wilson comes up with a scheme to capture Kong and use him as a Petrox promotional gimmick. They capture him and ship Kong to New York, where he breaks loose, nabs Dwan again, and shimmies to the top of the World Trade Center for the inevitable final showdown.
Is it any good?
Stars Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange do what they can to keep KING KONG afloat, but a hokey script and uneven effects nearly sink the boat they rode in on. The overblown love angle between Dwan and the giant monkey is laughable, with scenes of Kong leering at his little blonde handful, washing her in a waterfall, and blow-drying her with his hot simian breath. The scene in which Kong's giant unwieldy finger tries to peel her like a banana made the cover of TIME Magazine and helped make the movie a huge success. That Jessica Lange overcame this debut to become a serious actress is a testament to her strength.
By today's standards, the pacing and the effects are less than dramatic, certainly no match for Disney's Mighty Joe Young (another remake of a classic giant ape movie). Still, there's plenty here for young viewers to enjoy. They won't mind the tacky dialogue, or seeing Charles Grodin inexplicably cast as the unfunny villain who exploits Kong for money. Kids might even come away with an appreciation for the movie's vague environmental message, that rare animals should be treated sensitively, not paraded around in cages.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about monster movies. What's the fascination with seeing oversized, threatening monsters on screen? How is this one different from and the same as other monster movies you've seen? Is Kong scary -- or do you feel bad for him?