peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2024 02 02 JungleFever

Jungle Fever (1991)

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A bit of Spike Lee completism which I'd avoided previously due to the low IMDB rating. A Wesley Snipes jag from Witness. He's got a lot more to work with here and is a lot better for it. Tyra Ferrell from Boyz n the Hood flirts with an otherwise unlucky-in-love John Turturro who is the subject of many pile-ons. She had a big 1991. Also same-old Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Robbins, Brad Dourif, Frank Vincent, Michael Imperioli, a very young and histrionic/druggy Halle Berry, an antique Anthony Quinn (who I'll watch do anything). The theme song is by Stevie Wonder. Spike Lee's squeeze Veronica Webb has a Shar Pei!

The excess of ingredients cannot make up for the lack of ideas. The central conceit is in the title: for unspecified reasons happily-married-with-young-daughter architect Snipes decides to bonk temp Annabella Sciorra on his drafting table late one night. The remainder deals with the fallout with a variety of hot takes and underbaked explorations of the support networks and sexual politics. What would I know but I got the impression it was more Southern (Ossie Davis as the preacher-father, the stories of Italians getting lynched for dealing with Blacks in Louisiana, ...) than 1980s NYC.

So yeah, not a patch on Lee's sharper work on similar topics from the same period (e.g. Do the Right Thing).

Roger Ebert: three-and-a-half stars. The central romance doesn't work but the surrounding stuff does. The Taj Mahal ("It's like the Trump Towers for crackheads around here") sequence is pretty good. Samuel G. Freedman at the New York Times.