Just in time for the mega release of Peter Jackson’s King Kong comes a slew of Kong-related merchandise determined to cash in on the hoopla. Like long lost relatives only interested in you after that big lottery win, these forgettable items are giving it one desperate shot on DVD. Among this sub-par schedule of releases is the new feature-length cartoon Kong – King of Atlantis. In this outing, Kong is a new gorilla descended from the original King Kong. He has inherited the size, but is still struggling…to find his way into mental maturity. Hampering his journey is a trio of mostly clueless human allies that really bog down the action in spite of the elements that are actually there to recommend it. While most children will delight at the sight of Kong, his speechless bear cub friend, and a friendly overgrown tiger (reminiscent of He-Man’s Battle Cat), the human element will stop any further interest flat in its tracks.
Rather than bringing kids into the action through relatable human involvement, the creators have conjured up three whiny, obnoxious caricatures that will leave all children young and old begging for another shot of Kong and his animal friends. Not helping the likeability factor among the three human stars is a lurid opening musical number – to the best of my knowledge, it’s called “De-cide Now” – which will make even the most open-minded fan of family entertainment cringe in despair until it’s finally over.
My take on music in children’s fare is this: Don’t do it unless you’ve got something worth singing about. Disney, for the most part, understands this. The makers of Kong – King of Atlantis do not. While the other numbers following “De-cide Now” aren’t as bad as the initial tune, any improvements heard are barely detected. Who knows? Perhaps a shorter, story-only version of this cartoon would have had more to recommend it. As is, I feel you’ll be heavily utilizing the skip button on your remote control.
Also, the story relies far too much on exposition. I got the feeling watching this there had been other parts to this series, because of how much is said about the back-story. And when a feature spends as much time on back-story as this one does, it better hope the story is so familiar it requires little explanation or the events better be incorporated visually. True, it might make for a longer feature, but the way it’s presented here, we spend so much time hearing about what has happened, that it’s very difficult to care about what’s going on in the present.
The 1.33:1 full screen presentation is colorful and clear, but the animation seems so standard issue. Kong is drawn and colored beautifully, but I couldn’t get past the other characters. They all looked as if we’d seen them before in other more entertaining cartoons. And at times, everything appears too colorful with very light shadows providing a weak contrast. The result is one gigantic orgy of bright colors. Too few darker colors are used, but when they are, such as with Kong and the tar pit, they work with all the richness and contrast the rest of the picture lacks.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 presentation boasts high volume with very little hollowness in its delivery. The bass levels factor in most impressively – from the guttural growls of Kong lumbering through the jungle to the booming tramples of a frightened brontosaurus herd, both speakers are used well. Dialogue levels are especially high, but unfortunately, the shrill, operatic whininess of the musical numbers will send you reaching for the mute button. Still, it’s a good presentation for such a mediocre feature.
There is very little to say here. The disc contains nothing in way of special features, and that’s a shame. For one, if there is more to the story not presented in the feature itself, this would have been a nice place to show it. If not, that simply reiterates my point of how deadly the exposition was to the main feature. Either way, you get nothing.
If you’re desperate for gorilla-powered family entertainment, then this will work so long as you don’t sit through the musical numbers. With amateur execution and a rambling plot, it certainly feels like it’s longer than 68 minutes, but a love for the big ape could propel some folks into liking this title more than it deserves. If you’re curious, stick to the rental… or better yet, go see the real deal in theaters.
Note: It’s come to my attention this is based off the classic King Kong animated series. Just an FYI.
Special Features List