“The Legend of Tarzan” is Good.

I saw “The Legend of Tarzan” alone tonight because nobody wanted to see it with me. Even mentioning it to others seemed to engender a laugh, or at the very least a sly smirk. A shirtless white man who talks to animals and saves a bunch of helpless Africans — Paul, surely you must be joking.

The showing was at 10 PM and the theater was reasonably empty. Maybe 10 people total. On a Tuesday night after a long holiday weekend, I didn’t expect it to be packed. I was surprised anyone was there at all.

I thought the movie was good in that way that movies can be good because they know they are movies. That their purpose is to entertain. Not deliver messages and be polemics. It had a pretty interesting story that dealt with colonialism and the slave trade. It’s not an especially political movie, but it certainly veers more to the left than the right.

Going in, I had some reservations. The reviews were poor, but what else is new — critics hate anything that people might actually like. At the same time, I occasionally agree with critics, especially on big budget popcorn flicks. I try to watch everything, even mindless stuff, and when blockbusters get panned, it’s usually for a reason. With “Tarzan” however, the critics are obviously wrong.

Mostly, it’s just a fun movie about a guy who — through some crazy circumstances — gets raised by apes in a jungle, and who is desperately trying to rectify that part of his life with a more dignified version of himself. Not to get deep with it, but that’s an internal struggle a lot of grown men can relate to. Men, apes, jungles; it’s all very metaphoric, really.

I don’t want to give the movie away, because that’s my biggest pet peeve about movie writing on the internet, but needless to say, Tarzan eventually finds that you can take the boy out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the boy. And ultimately, it’s in the jungle, his natural environment, which brings him and his wife what they are really looking for.

And oh, he does save a bunch of Africans. Shame on him!

Further reading: “What Creative People Can Learn from the Guy Who Invented Tarzan”

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Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

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