Mighty Joe Young

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Details At A Glance

Category Family Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1998 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 109:37 minutes Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (60:55)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director Ron Underwood

Warner Home Video
Starring Bill Paxton
Charlize Theron
Rade Sherbedgia
Naveen Andrews
Regina King
David Paymer
Very large CGI gorilla
RRP $34.95 Music James Horner

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision ? Smoking Yes
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    A remake of the 1949 film of the same name, this gets the usual Di$ney treatment and becomes a typical Di$ney family fodder film in the process. Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy Di$ney films as much as anyone, but they do get to be just a tad on the sugary side at times - and this really is saccharine sweet stuff. Still, switch off the credulity side of the brain for a hundred odd minutes and this is enjoyable saccharine indeed.

    This starts out in Africa with Dr Ruth Young (Linda Purl) doing some gorilla-watching with her young daughter, watching in particular a young gorilla named Joe. Unfortunately poachers are afoot and Joe's mother is killed and Joe only escapes through the expediency of biting off the thumb and trigger finger of head nasty Strasser (Rade Sherbedgia) and the intervention of Dr Young - who is killed in the process (but being Di$ney, we don't see the death scene, just the funeral). Jump forward twelve years and Dr Gregg O'Hara (Bill Paxton) is doing some research when he comes across a much larger Joe - like fifteen foot tall Joe - in the jungle. The only protection Joe has from poachers is his lifelong friend Jill Young (Charlize Theron). Gregg convinces Jill to ship Joe to the Animal Conservancy he works for in California for Joe's own protection - and no doubt to get Jill too. Someone forgot however to protect Joe from people and when Strasser comes back to collect upon a debt with Joe, things get a little out of hand. Suffice to say Joe becomes public enemy number one, and has to get out of town to save his life. Jill foolishly accepts an offer from Strasser until she realizes he is the one who murdered her mother. But this is Di$ney, so we have an obligatory happy ending to the story.

    Mighty Joe Young may not be much of a story, but it works pretty well indeed with this decently B-grade cast and with the benefit of some damn good effects, that garnered an Oscar nomination at the 1999 awards. Bill Paxton is a little insufferable as the unconvincing scientist, whilst Charlize Theron provides some very nice eye candy indeed. There is not one of the cast that really stands out here, although Rade Sherbedgia is most believable as the immoral poacher. But the effects really are damn fine and most convincing (or at least as convincing as a fifteen foot gorilla can be) and the cinematography is really very nice too. As long as you can put credulity aside for a while, this is an entertaining enough way of filling in an evening. One nice little piece of casting is the bit part given to Ray Harryhausen, the doyen of effects work in film.

Transfer Quality


    Well, this is one of the finer efforts that Di$ney have committed to a Region 4 DVD.

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, this is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is quite a wonderful transfer, beautifully sharp throughout and with some gorgeous definition to it. There is indeed a wonderful depth to the transfer, which is very clear throughout. Shadow detail is very good in general. There is no problem with low level noise in the transfer.

    The colours come up very vibrantly, with a most convincing rendering of the jungle colours in particular - vibrant without being garish. There is some very nice contrast in the colours highlighting light and dark in the jungle scenes very nicely. There is no hint of oversaturation at all in the transfer, and this comes across as one of the better transfers through the player in recent times.

   There were no apparent MPEG artefacts in the transfer nor did there appear to be any film-to-video artefacts. Film artefacts were quite rare during the film, and were in no way distracting to the film.

   This is an RSDL format disc, with the layer change coming at 60:55. The layer change is not too noticeable and is not disruptive to the film at all.


   This is a very nice audio transfer that complements the video transfer well.

   There is only the one audio track on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 sound track.

   The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times.

   There did not appear to be any audio sync problems with the transfer.

   The musical score comes from James Horner, noted most recently for that film, and in his usual style is quietly evocative and suits the film well. It is not the best that he has done, but I suppose most of the inspiration went into that film.

   This is a quite nicely balanced soundtrack, with the rear channels providing some very nice if not too overt ambient sounds in the mix. The overall soundscape is quite convincing, and is nicely encompassing with the viewer feeling part of the action. The bass channel gets some nice work, especially when the rampaging Joe is on the loose. It is not an audio demonstration by any means but is a nice example of a well mixed 5.1 soundtrack.


    Di$ney = nothing at all.


R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 release misses out on:     The Region 1 release misses out on:     Slightly tougher choice with Region 1 offering some extras, although by accounts the featurette is shortish and really just an extended trailer, as opposed to Region 4 offering a very nice 16x9 enhanced video transfer. Personally, I would go for Region 4 with the enhancement.


    Okay, so it is not the greatest film ever made but I quite enjoyed Mighty Joe Young. The enjoyment is all the better for a very nice transfer. Well worth adding to the collection.

    A very good video transfer.

    A very good audio transfer.

    Di$ney - so no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
20th December 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL