When I go to concerts and hear “Longview" (Green Day), “Feed the Tree,” (Belly) or "Black Metallic" (Catherine Wheel.) It is impossible for me to separate those classics from coming of age at that time. Those songs were in constant rotation whether it be at a friends house, over the stereo at school, or MTV with classes that would work with it being played in the background. They are still excellent re-listening to them today but how they connected with that era holds a special place in my heart!
I hadn’t realized how good the 90s was for film until I spent the last couple of years honing in on this one decade. Before beginning this project a title’s release date wouldn't be a primary consideration for what I would watch. The movies brought astonishing technical advances over prior eras and came up with some fresh stories. This is my partial listing of 90s movies I have seen so far. I plan to continue compiling this list as soon as I figure out the technical details for how to do that. The actual list is much longer.
Scene from Free Willy 3. Around this time films like Congo staring a gorilla were popular. Learn more under "Explorations the Wild."
It was fun to come across my Middle School book report of Jurassic Park (which you can see at the bottom of the page. I wrote that one year after the blockbuster film hit theaters. The author of that movie, Michael Crichton, didn’t have a sequel ready so they made one of his earlier books into a film to hold people over. That movie was "Congo" and was popular at the time but today never came close to how many Jurassic Park films would come out in later years. I remember enjoying that film too when it came out. Last year I was going through a series of Wil Horneff films and discovered “Born to be Wild” a gorilla film that came out at the same time as “Congo.”
A friend’s dad who also saw Congo expressed how awesome it would be if gorillas could sign to humans like they did in this movie. He didn’t realize that they actually can do that in real life. Gorillas are also really good at memorization games like the one where you flip over cards which are face down one at a time and try to remember what is on the other side. Gorillas far exceed humans at the number of pictures they can match in the tests I have seen. There are videos about this on YouTube. I liked “Born to be Wild” but think it would have done better deciding whether it wanted to be a sentimental movie or a full on comedy. Still for those who enjoyed Congo and also want to see a more light-hearted movie about gorillas that do sign language it does a decent job.
As I looked for new films to add to this category I came across one based on the 1940s “Mighty Joe Young” of the same name. It is a decent movie about poachers going after a gorilla for revenge that feels like a cross between the titles I mentioned above and King Kong. Joe is a good hearted ape who when put into civil society comes off as standoffish around the people who mistake his playfulness as threatening. He belongs in the wild yet his care-takers feel he needs to be brought to The United States so that poachers don’t kill him.
My favorite movie about a similar topic from this same year is Free Willy 3. This sequel performed horribly in theaters even though it is likely the best of that series. The lead child character, Jessie, has now grown into a mature high schooler. Many series with kids as lead characters will replace an actor that is getting older with a younger cast member who approximates the age the main actor was in the earlier films. The director wisely left the older boy in to function as a good counter-balance to the new little boy. This ten year old also plays a much more mature role than the children in parts 1 and 2.
I can’t think of a single scene where his behavior could be denoted as childish. The son in the film not only questions both his father and mother’s decision making but also his grandparents and their parents. Maybe some kids are that far along intellectually where they could entertain the possibility that something just isn’t squaring with the way things they are told should be. I certainly wasn’t at that level when I was ten. It opens up the possibility that real critical thinking can happen that early with kids.
The story makes its audience ponder the differences between morality and legality. Has its share of funny parts and all of the special effects are convincing in an age where CGI was still a very hit and miss affair. I’ve seen quite a few kids films and tv shows this year on top my normal adult oriented films. Usually movies targeted at kids can be loaded with cliches with predictable plot-lines but this threequel was a pleasant break from that norm. After writing this article Scarecrow Video mentioned a series of 90s monkey videos that I haven't watched. I can't tell how these stack up but I thought I would include them here for those that would like to explore further. 🦍