Sunday, February 05, 2012

Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Grade C


Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow. Director Rupert Wyatt

Flowers for Algernon meets The Great Escape. That’s one way to characterize this goofy movie, a sequel in a long line of sequels. A genetic scientist (Franco) surreptitiously takes home a baby chimpanzee, “Caesar,” and raises him as if he were a child, including dressing him in jeans and a tee-shirt (don’t ask about bathroom functions – this is not a realistic movie).

As the chimp grows up in the home, joyously frolicking in the attic rafters, the scientist just happens to meet a Jane Goodall type woman (Pinto), an expert on chimps. She becomes a live-in with the scientist. The scientist tests a new alzheimer’s drug on Caesar and it makes him extremely intelligent, able to understand spoken English completely and express his own complex thinking in sign language. If there were an award for best performance in a monkey suit, Andy Serkis would get it.

But tragedy strikes when Caesar is picked up by San Francisco Animal Control and thrown in the slammer, joining hundreds and hundreds of other primates. Who knew San Francisco had such a problem with stray chimpanzees? It's scandalous!

Caesar tries to organize the other chimps but they are too stupid. So, he goes back to the scientist’s home and steals the wonder drug and gives it to all the animals in the shelter. Then they are smart enough to understand him and he can organize an army to take revenge on the humans for locking them up.

There is a big confrontation with the police on the Golden Gate bridge but the chimps outsmart them by climbing underneath the bridge as if it were “monkey bars,” and then, I’m not sure what happened exactly, it seems like the police were all just scared away. It wasn’t clear.

I thought the chimps would continue their march to Sausalito where there are some very nice restaurants and hotels, but instead, they retreat to Golden Gate Park. At the very end, we learn that Caesar actually can speak English, but just hasn't bothered with it up to this point. Amazing drug! I guess we have to wait for the sequel to the sequel to find out what happens next.

The movie has little to recommend it. The story is laughable, the concept derivative, the acting poor, and the “music” grossly over-engineered. I would give it a much lower grade except for the cinematography and special effects, both of which are superior. When a chimp comes riding toward the barricade on a policeman’s horse, whooping and hollering, I confess, I did not see that coming, and I laughed out loud. It was delightful. There are enough great images like that to raise a dreadful film up to the level of acceptable.

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