Confession: I have always wanted a pet monkey. Ever since I was a kid, I thought having a pet monkey would make me the coolest kid in school. After finally catching up with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I am not changing my mind, but I am sensing I would need more caution.
I admit to not seeing any of the original films with Charlton Heston as of yet, but I did see the (sad) remake with Mark Walberg that was directed by Tim Burton. This film by Rupert Wyatt clearly is better, and breaths new air into the chimp franchise. Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist searching for a cure to ALS. The film begins with a pitch for the cure going wrong, and he loses any hope of getting funding for human testing after testing on monkeys has had some positive results. An female ape protecting her baby is killed, and rather than kill the baby, Rodman brings it home. It eventually serves as good company for Will’s father Charles (John Lithgow), who we learn is ailing from ALS.
Over the years, the ape grows up (named Caesar) and shows remarkable intelligence. The ape is played throughout the film by Andy Serkis. I remember when I first saw him as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (especially The Two Towers), thinking what a great performance he gave. He did the same in the remake (and highly underrated) King Kong, and out does himself here. We feel for all the emotions Caesar goes through, whether he is setting Will up with a female vet (Freida Piento), all the way up to his anger towards some unkind father and son animal handlers (Brian Cox and Tom Felton).
Parents, there is some swearing (very little though), but the PG-13 rating is really for the action sequences, which I am sure may frighten young children (no sexual material of any kind). Still, I would think any kid as young as ten would be ok seeing this (if they have seen any of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, or Harry Potter films, they would be perfectly fine seeing this gem of a film.
Overall: 4 Stars ****