Coming this Season: King Kong

If you’re a fan of the awesomely campy original, the preview of the new “King Kong” may have taken you by surprise. Immediately obvious from the trailer is that Peter Jackson spent every penny of his monstrous special effects budget, creating a monster-heavy film where the title character is no longer a comical puppet-ape but an accurate, if a little oversized, silverback gorilla.

Injecting personality into a CGI character shouldn’t be a problem for Jackson, who hit such a goldmine with Andy Serkis’ Gollum that he put Serkis back in front of the green screen for Kong’s movement mapping. The question isn’t whether this ape will emote, it’s whether it will out-act the rest of the cast.

Turning a clunky black-and-white classic into a slick special effects vehicle hasn’t always been a great bet — especially in the “giant beast terrorizes New York” genre (remember “Godzilla”?) Some will pin this as a make-or-break for Jackson, who could hardly have a bigger mountain of success from which to tumble down. The mere coexistence, however, of Jack Black and Adrien Brody should be enough to make up for the inevitable loss of camp. Naomi Watts seals the deal; watching her scream her way to the top of the Empire State Building should be this holiday season’s best (and most expensive) cheap thrill.