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Movie Review: 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' -- 3 stars

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes Credit: On the Golden Gate Bridge, Caesar leads a revolution/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
3 stars
Directed by Rupert Wyatt
Starring James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto
Rated R

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is the sort of movie that inspires low expectations: It’s a prequel to a classic that’s already been turned into a disappointing remake, and on top of that, it stars CGI animals. Lots of them.

Given the many ways “Apes” could have gone wrong, it’s surprisingly entertaining and watchable.

It all begins in a lab, where scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) is devising a cure for Alzheimer’s — his dad (John Lithgow) has the disease. Just as Will is on the verge of a breakthrough, though, an ape goes haywire, prompting his boss to end the research and euthanize all test apes. The sole survivor is a baby chimp, Caesar, whom Will brings home.

But as you might expect, Caesar ends up biting a human and is sent straight to a facility. Will and his girlfriend (Freida Pinto) try to get him out, but not before Caesar becomes transformed by the hard life of a caged chimp, planting the seeds of revolt in his soul.

There are moments when Caesar’s photorealistic computer-generated qualities are too synthetic, but you’ve never seen an ape emote this powerfully. We have cutting-edge technology to thank, but Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar via motion capture, is equally responsible.

Much time is spent building Will and Caesar’s relationship, so when the thrilling climax arrives, you’re itching for it. “Apes” is pretty silly — I’m still not sure what to make of the ape subtitles — but it’s a terrifically guilt-free popcorn movie. 

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