Making the Grades
Audiences are being snowed under in the popular jungle movies that are emerging this year as writers capitalize on the idea that most of us haven't the foggiest notion of what jungle life is really like.
In this latest snowstorm, Tim Allen plays Michael, a Manhattan commodities trader who wants to finalize his divorce after a 13 year separation. But when he visits his estranged wife (who works with natives in the Amazon) he discovers Mimi-Siku (Sam Huntington), his unknown 12-year-old son who has been raised as a native. A promise leaves Michael obligated to bring Mimi-Siku back to the Big Apple wearing only his loin cloth and toting a poisonous dart gun and spider. (Who was on airport security that day?)
We are supposed to begin laughing when Mimi-Siku's culture meets Manhattan's business elite. That's when the pet tarantula comes in handy as it's predictably poised to appear at all the worst times -- like when dad is being pulled onto the carpet by the big boss or when his girlfriend is sleeping. Not only are the gags overused, but Huntington's typecast character and flat acting make him much more of a nuisance to the audience than to his father.
More cookie-cutter characters from the Russian mafia are added to this yarn creating unnecessary violence. Other family viewing concerns may include Michael's live-in girlfriend while he is still obviously married and Mimi-Siku's compulsion to fall in love and have overnight sleepouts with the first girl he meets that is roughly his age. As well, the language is often too harsh considering that only the youngest audiences would possibly put up with such a thin plot.
The one positive element is that Michael does eventually accept his son, and the two of them return to the jungle where Michael reunites with his wife. "Only in the movies," as the old saying goes, but by this point you are used to accepting the snowballs this movie throws at you. Just keep your shovel handy.