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Planet of the Apes

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter Michael Clarke Duncan Kris Kristofferson Estella Warren Paul Giamatti and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
Directed: Tim Burton


Bluntly speaking? Gimme a show of hands...how many of you were secretly ecstatic over the thought of A. Marky Mark, er, Mark Wahlberg (excuse me) all muddied up running around a Tim Burton set and B. that they were even remaking this accidental classic, which easily is near the top of America's Cheesiest Films Of All Times list (right below Blackula, Killer Tomatoes and Jon Waters' purposely cheesy farces of course). Me too!

For those too young to remember, Planet of the Apes first appeared in 1968. It was a sensation with audiences and panned by critics. The costumes were state-of-the-art for the times and the sets were as other worldly as they could portray in a sixties Star Trek quazi-realism way.

Those who enjoyed the first version(s) even passed up the concession stand goodies for fear of losing that comfy close-up seat. The suspense of what the apes would look with all the modern gizmos the FX folks have at their disposal nowadays was almost unbearable. Like with The Grinch's recent successful transformation into 21st century-gadget- hoopla- infused- bing- bam box-office magic, TPOA does not disappoint on that level.

As for the the rest of the film? Well, the plot is as deep as Green Eggs and Ham and the "human" cast is about as exciting as an instructional video on an anal polyp removal from the lower bowel of a brown field mouse, yet still, mad-director Tim Burton left just enough camp to keep it, surprisingly, enjoyable.

The story goes...Astronaut; Leo Davidson (Mark "softly spoken" Wahlberg) is aboard a space station USS Oberon, training primates to play Astronaut. One starry night he is told to send one of these Chimps out to research a menacing energy field approaching fast on their starboard side.

The "canary in the coal mine" never returns...So, Leo, bored with his mundane duties jumps into a delta pod to rescue the fellow and, surprise, gets transported through time to a place ruled by...

He crash lands safely in an eerie swamp. But, before he can shake his banana dry, he is overrun by a group of fear-for-their-lives types ricocheting through the forest being pursued by dressed, orating, violent apes. Leo is swiftly trapped ( along with these ratty anorexic Mad Max looking extras each with a perpetual glaze over their faces like deer locked on headlights) and sent to market. The market is run by Limbo (brilliant Paul Giamatti) a sleazy Orangutan creep.

Leo and a boopsie faced tribe gal, Deana (Estella " be careful of bimbo typecasting dear" Warren), meet in one of Limbo's human slave holding cells . She's smitten, but he's focused on his personal inner dialog, his sequel, "Exit El Quicko from the Planet Of The Apes."

They end up working together and gather a few others including, human rights activist girly ape Ari (Helena Bonham Carter). They all escape the city and head to "rendezvous" with Leo's space colleagues who have been sending out a signal to him via his space age transmitter he rescued from his sunken space pod. The humans hope Leo is their savior fallen from the sky to save them from the mini-Kongs that suppress them. Leo hopes his friends are waiting for him, just over the mountain range…

The fleeing party faces some pretty mean mother-apers en route to Shangri-La! One ape in particular, General Thad, (Tim Roth) hates humans in a Hitler- outhern plantation owner-circa 1800 way. He wants the filthy creatures (humans) completely annihilated and is schmoozing with the ape senate to get his wish. Leo is just what the nefarious Thad ordered when praying to their almighty Semos for a sign the humans must all go. With Leo's frightening display of intelligence and back bone, the senate will be scared bananaless into giving Thad the Marshal Law decree he so desires.

Will Leo and his new tribal friends make it to the space command center before Thad's wicked army finds and crushes them? Is Leo the god they have waited for all these years? Could the last fight scene be tackier?

Don't worry, I'm not ruining anything here for you...It's so telegraphed even G.W. Bush would know the ending half way through. Okay, maybe right before the credits at least.

The story is a tad blasé. You may find yourself adrift about the screen, looking for something to busy your brain when Mark and crew aren't battling the Apes. Which brings up a kind of humorous point of observation, Wahlberg's "Leo" has like three sentences of dialog in a scene, then smacko, he's immediately in primal combat again; like an odd ballet of film you watch and keep a mental metronome swaying in your head…1-2-3 fight, 1-2-3 fight.

TPOA is really all about the visual treats; like watching intense thespian Tim Roth bounce about like an extra at Ringling Bros. & Barnum Bailey Circus of the Cruel in his cute little money, er, ape suit. Or Helena Bonham Carter, all made up in ten pounds of latex, a far cry from the West End beauty she is, for sure. Still a lady, even as an ape.

Then there's MM Wahlberg. His picture is in Compton's Encyclopedia under "example of aMale Homo Sapiens " —In my version anyway… The man's body is, simply, dare I say, perfect. He's a double cream serving of Pistachio Ice cream with a hidden layer of marshmallow fluff. Scrumptious. Leo was a dull character so MM's signature "whisper" delivery worked. I think I need a Boogie Nights fix...

TPOA has quite a few exciting moments. Enough to recommend it. Those nostalgic for the original take heart— there's still only one Cornelious (Roddy McDowall) and this is not a replacement, it's just another look at a pretty wild concept modernized for the new generation to enjoy.

.
Snack recommendation: Banana nut pound cake and Pistachio ice cream.

Blunt Aside: Danny Elfman, Tim Burtonski's favorite music man, is back incahoots producing the film's score. As always, Elfman delivers a catchy, flowing gently ominous orchestration of notes



 

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