January 11, 1999 12:00 PM

Bill Paxton, Charlize Theron

The eyes have it in Mighty Joe Young. Those eyes—big, brown, hurting ones that make Bambi’s look like faded M&M’s—belong to Joe, the 15-ft., 2,000-lb. gorilla hero in this plodding remake of the 1949 adventure film Mighty Joe Young (itself a follow-up to 1933’s King Kong). Joe’s eyes, whether registering joy, fear, jealousy or panic, are the most expressive element here. Certainly more expressive than Theron or Paxton, Joe’s human heroes. Not that there’s much the duo can do besides look worried when, having been whisked from Africa to L.A., the big guy gets loose and clambers atop such local landmarks as the Hollywood sign. Joe, depicted variously by an actor in a gorilla suit, animatronic models and computer imagery, is pure Saturday afternoon movie magic. Joe the film, though, casts a way weaker spell. (PG)

Bottom Line: Nothing to go ape over

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