STARRING Bill Paxton, Charlize Theron, David Paymer, Regina King, Terry Moore
DIRECTED BY Ron Underwood
The 1949 original had the big gorilla tearing apart a degrading nightclub act. An early draft of Disney’s remake shifted the melee to Las Vegas, but Underwood (Tremors) favored a ”more emotional” ecosystemic premise: Endangered by African poachers, 15-foot-tall Mr. Young finds shelter at a California conservancy, along with leggy surrogate mom Theron. Bad men try to shanghai M.J. from a kindly zoologist (Paxton), leading to a rampage on Hollywood Boulevard. Pressed for details about how Oscar-winning makeup whiz Rick Baker (Men in Black) worked magic with men in monkey suits (plus computer animation), Underwood deadpans: ”I believe Joe is real. Don’t ruin it for the audience.” (Dec. 18)
THE LOWDOWN Conceived as a steroid-pumped summertime beast, Joe got bumped to the holiday kiddie market. So don’t expect Jurassic-style violence: This Mighty Joe will skew very young.