Rise of the Planet of the Apes

January 12, 2012


While The Rise of Planet of the Apes won’t be the worst film you see all year, it will certainly be the most over rated. Possessing neither the courage to explore it’s fascinating origins story properly, nor the honesty to be the big, dumb blockbuster the studio want to spin sequels out of, it straddles both worlds miserably, falling like a lethargic goofy lump into the multiplexes.

The gist of the story is this. Cute doctor (James Franco) works at top medical research facility, searching for the cure to Alzheimer’s. He is both brilliant and possessed. For you see his cute, doddering father (John Lithgow) has the disease and is descending into dementia. When the cute primate they so cruelly snatched from the jungle in the opening (rushed) few moments goes berserk and trashes the lab, the project, so close to completion, is shut down.

It wasn’t the drugs fault. It was the idiots who administered it. For you see this top medical facility is the type of knuckle dragging operation that hires scientists and animal handlers who can’t tell that the subject they are studying- and to whom they have pinned the hopes of a cure to one of mankind’s cruelest ailments, is pregnant.

Undeterred the cute Doctor, brings the cute monkey home to live with him and his cute father in their home where he raises him as a son and continues his research illegally. But raising an ape in human environs can’t end well. (Just ask Rachel and her Curious George doll from Friends). Even the vetinarian (Frida Pinto, also cute) knows that.

Lo and behold it does not go well and the ape is sent of to an animal welfare unit that makes Oz Correctional Facility look like Claralara.

The whole flick is full of reprehensible characters that you find yourself unable to side with the God, dam dirty apes nor their human counterparts. You just don’t care about anyone. And the talent assembled dines here on cheap, tasteless nuggets of dialogue, where scenes are cut so quickly into one another you get no time to develop any attachment to them. The special effects are impressive but seem more interested in making the apes seem like marketable Mattel dolls than anything that could enslave mankind.

San Francisco is shot to look like Lothlorien, the Apes take the city with relative ease, multiplying from two dozen to two thousand apes, all on the same wavelength as the genetically improved ones even though only a handful were exposed to the gas that makes them super smart. And there are so many ‘this will be explored in the sequel’ moments the whole affair begins to feel like an extended trailer.

And then there is James Franco, phoning it in, picking up another paycheck, which will allow him to fund the numerous vanity projects that have marked his career, which of late has been an interminable game of footsy with the gay community. If he keeps kicking them in the shins with projects like this he’ll struggle to draw any audience when it counts.

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