I’ll just come out and say it. I’m one of the five people in the world that really enjoys “Congo.” I don’t care how smug it makes me sound, but I’m genuinely shocked that it’s so reviled by many movie fans since I never thought it was terrible. I won’t lie, for years I’ve always thought of “Congo” as nothing more than a B grade adventure film about maniacal monkeys and diamonds, but I’m shocked it’s so trashed by a majority of movie buffs and critics alike. I think there are much worse movies out there. Sure, there’s a monkey drinking a martini, but come on, is “Congo” really awful? I don’t think so.
Laura Linney plays Karen, an engineer testing a communications laser with her boyfriend Charles (Bruce Campbell) in a remote jungle in the Congo. While Karen helps supervise the operation through web camera, Charles and his team discover an ancient city in ruins and decide to investigate. Much to their horror, they’re slaughtered, with Karen left to wonder about their fates, and what attacked their camp. After learning they were really in the Congo to find a rare diamond that can transmit massive power, Karen goes along on an expedition to the Congo with primatologists Dr. Peter Elliott and his assistant Richard. There they hope to take their pet gorilla Amy, whose learned to communicate through a device that vocalizes her sign language, to a part of the Congo that’s been haunting her dreams.
There, they come across a slew of colorful characters, all of whom garner their own goal for the expedition to the ruins. Again, I won’t argue it’s a masterpiece, as it’s clearly nothing but a B grade adventure fantasy. Really “Congo” feels like an adaptation of really bad movie serials stitched together to form an adventure movie that just embraced the camp, rather than attempt a stern approach. Surely it’s silly and has its faults, but “Congo” is damn fun and dare I say exciting. I love it because it’s good, and yet so bad it’s good. You have to love how Bruce Campbell is so over the top and is only in the movie for five minutes. And Joe Don Baker completely demolishes every scene he has in the movie with unnecessary shouting almost as if he’s imitating Reb Brown. Any movie casting Joe Don Baker is clearly in on the joke with us.
That said there are some great performances by Dylan Walsh as the noble Dr. Elliott, along with Ernie Hudson, and Linney. There are also some wild and surreal turns from Tim Curry as a Romanian philanthropist, and Delroy Lindo as an African military officer. Stan Winston’s special effects are still massive, with Amy’s more child like features juxtaposed against the more vicious killer apes that tear through the film in the second half. I also really found the relationship between Elliott and Amy quite touching, especially when she’s forced to resort to brute force to help her friends. “Congo” is a fun and unabashedly exciting B movie with great effect, solid performances and director Peter Marshall giving a rollicking Spielbergan approach to Michael Crichton.