Rise of the Planet of the Apes (PG-13, 1:50): Having lived in the San Francisco area for a couple of years, I can tell you that it’s not easy getting from one part of The City to the other.
There’s Haight-Ashbury, Mission District, Chinatown, the Embarcadaro. Sometimes, the locals can get turned around, not to mention the tourists.
So, as I’m watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I began to appreciate the intelligence of the apes after they escaped their sanctuary in San Bruno Mountain State Park. They have benefited from exposure to a wonder drug that has unleashed their intellect.
Upon their escape (spoiler alert, but it’s in the trailer), the apes regroup and look out from San Bruno to see San Francisco below – the bustling downtown, the Golden Gate Bridge (as if you could see it through the fog) and the oh-so-enticing Muir Woods, a place where an ape can be an ape.
At that point, they make their mad dash, cutting through downtown, creating havoc as apes will, and eventually finding their bearings enough to hijack a San Francisco cable car to somewhere near the Golden Gate (it’s still a haul down Marina Boulevard).
Then, it’s a Braveheart-like showdown with humans on the big orange bridge. Bullets. Flying fur. Explosions. Panicked commuters.
Did they make it over the bridge to the Muir Woods? Did some head up to Wine Country? I’m not saying exactly, but here’s another spoiler alert: This movie is a prequel to Charlton Heston’s nightmare. So, you do the math.
Again, as a former Bay Area resident, I admire the apes’ smarts. Heading downtown, they could have easily taken a wrong turn, headed east onto the Bay Bridge and ended up in Berkeley where they might have fit in at Cal-Berkeley. Or they could have headed south on the Bayshore Freeway and ended up at Stanford. But, no, big trees are more fun than a Pac-10 education.
Hmmm. Maybe those apes aren’t so smart after all.
THE PLOT: James Franco plays Will Rodman (no relation to Dennis), a brilliant geneticist who is working on a cure for Alzheimer’s. His father (John Lithgow) has the disease. When a test goes wrong at his lab and test chimps must be put down, Rodman saves a baby chimp that’s named Caesar. As Caesar (Andy Serkis) ages, it becomes evident that he embodies the potential of Rodman’s test drug. But it all starts to unravel and Caesar ends up in a sanctuary where he begins to acknowledge his place in this world. In the end, we find out how the planet ended up going ape.
HOMAGE TO THE ORIGINAL: The 1968 version of the Planet of the Apes gave us the vision of a planet that seemed like a large-scale Rainforest Cafe. Heston hammed up it in that film and his famous “damn, dirty apes” is repeated in this version.
FX REPORT: Serkis, who’s made a living out of playing creatures (King Kong and the Lord of the Rings‘ Gollum), does a great job as Caesar. You’re not going to mistake him for Lancelot Link, but it’s a step above Chaka from Land of the Lost. Personally, as far as acting like a monkey, I liked Paul Giamatti’s performance as Limbo and Tim Roth as Gen. Thade in the 2001 remake starring Marky Mark. Go rent that version to see some good monkey business.
IS IT FOR KIDS? Sure. What kid doesn’t like a movie about apes?
DATE MOVIE? There are some tender moments. But guys who’ve been wanting that pet chimp for chores around the house might have that idea shot down.
BEST TIME FOR A BATHROOM BREAK: According to the Runpee app, there a four-minute window 32 minutes in when Ceasar is put into the ambulance in front of Will’s house.
YOU’LL ALSO GO APP: To really see whether you’re smarter than an ape, there’s also a free app for iPhone and iPad users. It’s available on iTunes in the App Store (search Apes Will Rise). Take the test and see whether you’re smarter than a primate. I’m afraid to take it myself.