I’m about to say something that will no doubt earn me heaps of derision and scorn, but I don’t care, because it has to be said: Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the most entertaining movie I’ve seen in the theater in years. Note that I called it a “movie” and not a “film” and said “entertaining,” not “powerful,” so you can pull your knotted cinematic panties out of your condescending twats and relax. With those caveats out of the way, go see the damn thing. Now.
If you are unaware of the plot, allow me to summarize: James “Oscar Host Extraordinaire” Franco plays a scientist who invents a drug designed to treat Alzheimer’s disease as well as other degenerative brain ailments. How did they get Franco’s stoned, squinty eyes to open wide enough to convincingly play a scientist? I’m not sure, but I’m assuming a portion of the movie’s vast special effects budget went into it. The drug proves to have incredibly wide applications, not the least of which being that, when administered to cognitively unimpaired test apes, they develop remarkable levels of intelligence, equaling, perhaps even surpassing, that of humans.
Caesar, the chimpanzee shown above, is the child of one of the apes given the drug, who, in time, reveals himself to have inherited his mother’s enhanced intelligence after James Franco smuggles him out of the lab and raises him like a son. (Did you really expect a stoner to be able to resist the urge to steal a baby monkey when presented with the opportunity?) Everything goes fine for a time, with Caesar swinging around the house wearing little outfits that would make even an African gorilla poacher go “awww” (while cursing under his breath the adverse effect the movie would no doubt have on his ashtray business). All teenagers must ultimately rebel against their parents, though, and Caesar does it in style: He snags a few canisters of his father’s intelligence drug and uses it to create an army of genius apes.
The rest of the movie becomes a battle of Caesar and his generals (yes, monkey generals. I’m telling you, see this flick) against San Francisco police forces in a series of amazing action sequences that not only work because they’re fantastically shot, but because Andy Serkis‘ performance as Caesar is so nuanced and brilliant that the audience is passionately invested in the fate of a CGI chimp.
And that is the most pleasant surprise of Rise of the Planet of the Apes: While Hollywood predictably resorted to playing it safe and selling it as a dumb, special effects-driven chest thumper (literally), the film has incredible pathos, working flawlessly on an allegorical level to depict the struggle of any downtrodden caste against cruel and oppressive forces. There wasn’t a single moment the movie didn’t keep me riveted, and I’m so ADD that I can’t even defecate without texting, so that’s saying something. Don’t be embarrassed to give Rise of the Planet of the Apes your dollars this weekend. And bonus points if, when the closing credits roll, you stand up and exclaim in a thick Southern Drawl, “I don’t know who trained them monkeys, but he did one heck of a job!”