I do not subscribe to the philosophy of “so-bad-it’s-good” movie-watching, at least in a literal sense. I’ve certainly used the phrase when describing movies before, and probably will again, but it’s really a stand-in for a more nuanced take on movies lacking in traditional craft and competence that still rise into something worth watching.
If a movie is bad, it’s bad. Full stop. If it is lacking in textbook-defined filmic proficiency, but is still a good movie-viewing experience, then, well, it’s good. I am philosophically opposed to the nihilistic schadenfreude of cheering on things that lack any merit or enjoyability simply because of their badness.
But when people talk about “loving bad movies,” I think they are not that cynical. They do not love true “badness.” I believe what most people mean when they cherish these kinds of “trashy” or “cult” bad films, they’re really reacting to something about the film that is good under the surface. Perhaps the film is avant garde or subversive or psychologically stimulating in unexpected ways. Maybe its lack of technical proficiency highlights the very artifice of the cinematic experience or offers some surrealist surprises. Or, perhaps most likely of “so-called-so-bad-it’s-good” movies, it might just make us laugh. It might just be a good comedy in the garb of “badness.”
These supposedly-bad films we cherish might be doing good things in ways never intended to be good in that specific way by its creators. If, for example, it uses terribly ugly special effects or non-naturalistic acting or sloppy writing, the creators might have tried and failed to create something that fits traditional molds, and those failures are in fact what make the movie appealing. But it is still good.
So-called “bad movies” are quite often “good art.” They achieve artistic merit on the metric of art as something that challenges or upends our perceptions of norms and those norms’ very purpose, even if we don’t realize it. They are also “good art” in the sense of offering some sort of entertainment or escapism or pleasure.
I’ll say it one last time: if it is “so-bad-it’s-good” it is actually just “good” by my reckoning.
With all of that as prelude, what the ever-loving fuck is this?
George of the Jungle 2 is the sequel to the 1997 hit George of the Jungle. The leads have been recast, which we know even if we haven’t seen the first movie because the narrator (who is essentially the main character this time around) points it out, multiple times, while taking potshots at Brendan Fraser’s replacement, *checks notes* Christopher Showerman. Showerman’s career is so undistinguished, his IMDb page doesn’t even list four “Known For” entries.
This movie is insane. So much stuff happens and so little of it makes sense. It has no credited director. I don’t even know what example to cite to try and give an example of its batshit wavelength, but let’s try this: At the end of the film, the narrator descends from the heavens and kills the villain with a wedgie.
My fingers are itching for me to just start listing every single inexplicable thing I can remember that happens in George of the Jungle 2. I will spare you, because I fear having them shotgunned at you will diminish their impact. But let me assure you it runs the gamut of stuff that, on paper, has no reason to be in a George of the Jungle movie. There’s some mind control shit, a riff on the Funny Games remote control gag, a CGI kangaroo hanging around for no clear reason, a gorilla with a gambling addiction, a spontaneous Shakespeare monologue, and… oh God I just devolved into listing like I said I wouldn’t. I can’t help myself. It’s too wild!
Everything about the movie looks uglier and flatter than the original. Where the animals in the original used animatronics and puppetry to make the fake animal characters look semi-real, George 2’s budget apparently topped out at “three Spirit Halloween gorilla suits,” with all the other animals rendered in dollar store CGI. Sets are quite clearly studio backlots decorated in a half hour.
This movie has even less of a plot than George 1, which was already held together with bubblegum and vibes. George’s mother-in-law doesn’t like him, and also George spends too much time resolving disputes in his role as King of the Jungle, disrupting his marital bliss. (Fun fact: George is never referred to as “King of the Jungle” in the first movie.) Then there’s a whole bunch of scenes that don’t really make sense, and then the movie’s over with nothing changed. I wish I could present something more coherent than that, but the film does not allow it.
A bunch of gags refer back to moments in the first movie as if the original is some sort of Star Wars cultural touchstone. It’s like one of those Friedberg-Seltzer parodies, but the breadth of the spoof is just the single previous movie in the series. E.g.: The elephant is wearing New Balance shoes, and the movie is lampshading the product placement. It’s like when George wore Nikes for a scene in the first one to run fast. Get it?
This is an aggressively weird and artless film, but one I enjoyed watching. I was never bored, basking in every inexplicable detail. I was basically the meme of Adam Driver shouting “more!” for an hour and a half during my viewing.
In reference to my opening thoughts in this review, George of the Jungle 2 is good art. It is! You may call it “so-bad-it’s-good” — I say it’s just “good.” It challenges the very notion of what I view a motion picture to be. It is almost experimental in the way it knocks down the walls of streamlined corporate franchise filmmaking into incoherence. It rubs our face in this shit, much like the film rubs Thomas Haden Church’s face in fake monkey shit. It’s not quite soul-leaving-the-body transcendently ugly and nutty, but it’s close. I will be watching it again.