'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' triumphs with the critics
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes," almost lost in the stampede of huge summer blockbusters, probably would not have appeared on anyone's list of most-anticipated films two weeks ago. But all of a sudden, the little-monkey-movie-that-could is emerging from out of nowhere as one of the heat season's biggest surprises.
The Times' Kenneth Turan doesn't go overboard in his praise. He says, it's "smart, fun and thoroughly enjoyable, it's a model summer diversion that entertains without insulting your intelligence." Though he has praise for the writing, direction and the film's human stars, Turan singles out performer Andy Serkis and his fellow performance-capture thespians: "All this technology wouldn't be as dazzling as it is without the work of the actors (some from Cirque du Soleil) who wear the motion capture suits, especially the redoubtable Andy Serkis."
Slate's Dana Stevens also praises Serkis, writing, "That a movie starring a CGI chimp could attain this (or any) degree of emotional resonance is largely a gift of the performance of Andy Serkis." She goes on to speculate that his performance could be the Oscar-worthy breakthrough that makes performance capture acceptable in the acting community. She concludes, "Maybe 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' will serve as a liberatory manifesto not only for the downtrodden simians of the world but for the growing army of motion-capture actors in their electrode-dotted suits."
The film is PETA approved, as the New York Times' Manohla Dargis points out in her positive review. Like most of the critics who enjoyed the film, she praises it for giving us a diverting two hours and not going any further: "Engineered to entertain, 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' may be awkwardly named, but almost everything else about it is generally easygoing, including the inevitable climactic action and the human and digitally assisted performances."
Salon's Andrew O'Hehir faintly praises, but has no love for its human star, James Franco: "My point is that Franco, although he's the putative star of 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes,' might as well not be in the movie at all. Neither his ample charm nor his acting chops are much in evidence."
On the other end of the spectrum, Richard Corliss of Time says, "As both a simian simile and a wonder of technology, 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' deserves to be in the company of the great original 'Kong.'"
But lest you think that "Rise" is the best-reviewed movie of the year, remember there are several dissenting voices, including the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle, who, perhaps huffy at seeing his hometown wrecked by apes at the end of the film, slams it this way: "Nothing in 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' will last 40 years. If it lasts 40 days in theaters, that would be amazing. It is not what could be fairly called a bad movie, but neither is it fine enough to be a good one, with its lineup of dull characters and a limp story that functions like a conveyor belt. Viewers get on, know where it's heading, and that's where it goes. Yes, it goes somewhere, but there are no surprises."
When the apes come to extract their vengeance upon us, they will not be kind to Mr. LaSalle. No, they won't be.
— Patrick Kevin Day
Photo: Andy Serkis plays Caesar in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." Photo credit: WETA / 20th Century Fox.