My relationship with this film is odd, and as mutated as the lizard himself. When I first saw it, I didn't care for it. Simply, it wasn't a Godzilla film, and this very well done creature was not Godzilla/Gojira. Godzilla is a kaiju. In the Toho Films tradition, that's a critter of immense size and inexplicable abilities whose life is all about breaking stuff. Lots of stuff. But this Godzilla is an innocent. He causes damage only when looking for food or seeking a place to make his (?) nest. That's not a kaiju. As Mathew Broderick says in the film, "he's just an animal."
About a year after I saw it, I happened upon the DVD playing in a Sam's Club, and, to my surprise, found myself smiling. I bought the DVD, and the more I watch it, the more I love it. It's a delightful film, rich with terrific performances by a lovable cast. Jean Reno is classic as Philippe Roche, an "insurance agent" who is really much more. Hank Azaria is worth the ticket price all by himself as news photographer "Animal." Maria Pitillo is funny and enchanting. We also have the brilliant Michael Lerner as "Mayor Ebert" (get it?) and the ever reliable Kevin Dunn as the colonel in charge of operations. Everyone does a great job, and Broderick himself plays Nick Tatopoulos (the last name is taken from the visual effects director) as moody and difficult to approach, a sort of ultra geek AKA "the worm guy," for his work with earthworms in nuclear environments. Usually he's warm and cuddly; not until "The Producers" remake did we see an edgy side to him. He's a riot.
Visually, despite some opinions to the contrary by no less a film luminary than Roger Ebert, the effects are magnificent. Ebert's problem with rain allegedly hiding flaws is dead wrong. Of course, Mr. Ebert, whom I loved and respected, was often clueless about visual effects; he called "The Last Airbender's" visuals "atrocious." In fact, they were groundbreaking. Likewise, here, the rain isn't designed to cover flaws, but to provide mood and depth. It actually complicates the work, requiring reflections and specular highlights in the renderings. Great work by Patrick Tatoupoulos, which is nothing unusual. He also did the visual work in "Pitch Black," the "Underworld" films, "Stargate," "I Am Legend," and many more. He's first-rate.
The ticket here is to enjoy the movie for what it is, not excoriate it for what it isn't. Godzilla's necessary demise is painful to watch, a testament to the effects work. Acting is charming, musical score (except for the ridiculous rap over the final credits) is often moving. Is "Godzilla" a perfect movie? Heck, no. It has a couple of plot holes and misdirected moments big enough for the "lizzid" to lay eggs in. Some sequences go a bit too long, yes. But overall it's a hoot, a kindly kinda kaiju with a sense of humor, and one that rewards repeated viewings with big grins and even an occasional lump in the throat. It deserves much better than it has received.