In retrospect, “Kong: Skull Island” is an entertaining example of the type of genre I’d like to call “The Silly PG-13 Action Movie.” Recent lousy examples include “xXx; Return of Xander Cage” and “The Great Wall,” which both respectively threatened to ruin the talents of Vin Diesel and Matt Damon with their boredom and idiocy. This movie, however, is actually kind of fun.
The movie takes place in 1973, just as the Vietnam War is coming to a close. John Goodman and Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre from 2015’s “Straight Outta Compton”) enlist a team of misfits to travel to an uncharted island to prove the existance of monsters. Their team includes a decommissioned tracker (Tom Hiddleston), a young photographer (Brie Larson), a Lieutenant Colonel (Samuel L. Jackson) and his men (including Toby Kebbel, Thomas Mann, and Jason Mitchell), among others. They must go through a major storm system in order to make it to the island, which they pull through successfully; but not long before a giant ape named Kong (Terry Notary in a motion capture performance) attacks them violently, and if you look at it from the movie’s angle, comically.
Half the survivors end up in a tribal community, where the only American is a stranded WWII soldier (John C. Reilly), who knows Kong is a good king, and warns them of the other monsters the ape has to deal with. One species in particular is what he likes to call “Skull Crawlers,” which are like lizards with skulls for heads. Meanwhile, Jackson decides to lead his men to a ship to get more weapons to kill Kong; and what wouldn’t be a “King Kong” movie without a young woman finding the true beauty in the beast? And that’s where Brie comes in.
“Kong: Skull Island” may have some nice performances, but it doesn’t have the kind of character development it deserves. It was a little hard for me to get focused on Hiddleston, Brie, and Jackson’s characters, until the second half when they make their points. And there’s too many people on the island for me to care about. But on the other hand, the movie makes up those elements by being goofy fun, and even Reilly gets you going with his sly wit and flexible character.
The movie, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (“The Kings of Summer”), is fun with its special effects, vicious attacks, and big laughs. One example includes a soldier falling into Kong’s mouth, and then the next shot features a man eating a sandwich. And when Jackson stands in a fiery environment during the first attack, you can tell the movie wants to poke fun at the Eight Wonder of the World.