February 28, 2011

Justify My Netflix: The African Queen

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

The African Queen

Today's movie: The African Queen, 1951 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this is just one of a thousand classic movies that I've been meaning to watch but never have; and a brand-new restoration and digital print of it last year finally gave me a good excuse to do so.

The reality: Oh, it was okay, I suppose; but I have to confess, for a film that's generated so much praise over the years (it garnered Humphrey Bogart his only Oscar, is one of only a few hundred films in the Library of Congress archives, and was declared by the AFI a few years ago to be the 65th best movie of all time), I found the actual viewing experience to be kind of disappointing, essentially yet another '50s buddy action flick and romantic comedy full of corny dialogue and rotoscoping nightmares, and with an ugly "let's kill us some dirty Germans" rah-rah jingoism that you could still get away with in the decade following World War Two but that is cringe-inducing now, the whole thing making such a splash in the first place mostly because of it featuring large amounts of location footage actually shot in the African jungle, the very first color Hollywood film in history to do so. (For those who don't know, the story is based on a C.S. Forester novel about a group of Brits in German-controlled East Africa in the 1910s, including a salty ship's captain and a prim missionary, and how they suddenly find the need to high-tail it out of there once World War One breaks out, but not before using the captain's broken-down Victorian-era boat and the mine explosives he was transporting to ram into a German warship that had been causing all kinds of trouble to the allied forces. Bogart is rather awkwardly shoehorned into his role by making him Canadian instead of the original Cockney, thus allowing for all the corny "Do It For Your Queen" dialogue from the book to remain.) As such, then, it's certainly good for a larf on a Sunday afternoon, but doesn't even hold a candle to so many other films from the period with profoundly better scripts, a good-looking but cheese-filled two hours that will make you praise God that Hollywood eventually got rid of the Hays Code. It comes recommended today only with those caveats in mind.

Strangest piece of trivia: The "Jungle Cruise" attraction at Disney World is largely based off the look and feel of this movie, despite it not being a Disney production.

Worth your time? Kinda

Filed by Jason Pettus at 4:10 PM, February 28, 2011. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |