At least Spike Lee doesn’t totally hate white people.
Flipper (Wesley Snipes) is a successful, married architect. Angie (Annabella Sciorra) is a temporary office worker. When they meet, it’s Jungle Fever. Also, Flipper’s crack-addicted brother (Samuel L. Jackson) causes many problems as well.
Writer and director Spike Lee is a man who is most known for being very controversial with the things he has to say, and here he really talked about something that was actually kind of taboo way back when.
The one thing that Lee does so well here is create a script that shows two different races view points on the same subject of interracial dating and how everything all these people say only pops up when the actual idea of having this kind of dating is heard of. Lee brings up points that most just use it out of curiosity, and while both races don’t hate one another, blacks and whites still have problems when it comes to sex and how we don’t know how to be sexually intimate with each other.
It’s great to see and hear Lee hit this film with such honesty because we see both sides basically talk and there’s no real right or wrong side here, this is just basically two sides voicing their opinions on what they feel is the truth about interracial dating and the races. Lee is masterful here at bringing up these points as well as never fully telling us what we should and should not know about each race. I guess that’s something we have to do when it comes to being sexually attracted to another race.
Lee has a great script here but his problem’s lie within his direction because even though he shies away from the constant cliche romantic scenes once this couple gets together, Lee shows how both races feel which worked in it’s advantage for the most part. However, the problem is that we never actually see these two together too much and when we do the chemistry is just sort of piss-poor. It would have been a lot better if we saw how two actually felt for each other while all this craziness from everyone around them was going on.
Another problem here is that the film has way too many random sub-plots that by the end of the film kind of give it that cluttered feeling to the point of where the ending is actually a lot weaker than it could have been. The film also goes from character to character with no real idea as to who it wants to focus on the most and rather more about just being able to voice all of these other people’s opinions on the subject of interracial dating which made it seem more about the countless other characters that supported this story, and totally getting rid of the relationship that practically is the reason for this film.
Wesley Snipes is good as Fluffy Purify, but the problem with this character is that he is either incomplete as a character or just a total jerk that deserved all this bad crap to happen to him after this relationship starts. I don’t know what Lee was trying to show here but despite how much Snipes tries, this character just wasn’t that likable and a bit naive actually. Annabella Sciorra is also good as the smart-talking, and charming Angie Tucci who brings a great sense of likability to her character even though she is almost an unknown by the end of the film by how much they barely don’t focus on her. There’s also some very good performances from the likes of Spike Lee himself, Anthony Quinn, John Turturro, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, and Lonette McKee.
However, everybody in this film is actually over-shadowed from the amazing presence of Samuel L. Jackson as Flipper’s crack-addicted brother, Gator. Every time this guy is in the film he just totally lights up the screen (pun intended) and it’s just Jackson’s approach to the role is what makes it incredibly likable, a little funny, and kind of sad by just how messed up this guy really is. If you think about it, there’s actually no real purpose for Gator to be in this film but Jackson makes him incredibly watchable and is just a great performance all-around.
Consensus: Much more could have been focused on the actual couple as opposed to the numerous side characters and subplots the film also showed, but Jungle Fever shows Lee swinging for the fences and giving some frank and brutally honest talk about sex, race, and just how do we separate love and sex. A flawed film but still very well-made.