Peter Jackson's "King Kong" -- an earnest attempt to pay homage to the grandaddy of all monster movies -- is way, way, way, way way, way, way (deep breath) way too long.
Self-indulgent to a sense-numbing degree, a good half of this luxurious remake consists of superfluous, mastrubatory action sequences that quickly become ridiculous, and it ruins everything good the film has to offer.
How ridiculous? Try on these two scenes for size:
While in the jungles of Skull Island -- the uncharted isle where movie-making huckster Carl Denham (Jack Black) discovers the titular 25-foot ape and hopes to turn him into a Broadway freak show -- damsel-in-distress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts in the Fay Wray role) gets tossed around like a rag doll while hanging onto the nostrils of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Soon thereafter, not-so-strapping hero Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) hangs on to a giant bat's wing to fly to safety while rescuing Ann during the winged beast's attack on Kong who has taken a shine to the girl after she was captured by cannibal natives and offered up as a sacrifice.
Couple the director's unchecked F/X excess with a seemingly endless parade of seemingly endless sequences transparently designed for the movie's tie-in video game, and it's no wonder this "Kong" is a full 90 minutes longer than the 1933 original.
Jackson has dreamed about remaking "King Kong" since he was a kid, and gifted director that he is, the results are not entirely unredeemable. But for this film to be great, someone would have to tie Jackson down and have at it with a pair of scissors.
Remove the dinosaur stampede (you're not remaking "Jurassic Park," Peter). Trim down the three-times-too-long fight scene between Kong and three T-Rexes to make it a mano-a-mano with only one. Lose the pointless bug- and worm-attack scenes.
In fact, just cut every action sequence in half as a rule -- and while we're at it, Mr. Director, explain what the hell happened to all of Skull Island's very scary psycho-zombie natives, who vanish without explanation an hour into the movie.
And please tell me all the laughably obvious green-screen scenes were meant some kind of misguided homage to the original and not the hurried, unfinished special effects they seemed to be.
Make these changes, fix the cheaper effects shots, and maybe this self-indulgent parade float might be worth watching.
Now, don't get me wrong. Naomi Watts is affecting as Depression-hungry actress and damsel-in-distress Ann Darrow. Matching her is Andy Serkis (Gollum in Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" movies), who is spectacular in bringing to life the heart of Kong -- along with the movie's CG wizards -- with his motion-captured and computer-animated performance as the mondo monkey.
There's a tenderness between Ann and the big ape that enriches the story immensely. In this way, Jackson is very successful in expanding laterally from the original-- that is to say, with strong character development. And the extraordinary period authenticity of his 1930s New York is absolutely transporting.
But clearly there wasn't a single soul working on this project who had the courage to tell the director it was time to stop playing in his sandbox and make a real movie.
Bad monkey! Bad!