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I’m a Monkey’s Uncle

I’m a Monkey’s Uncle

The Rise of the Planet of the Apes movie is Curious George on steroids and a shot of Jack Daniels.  Since I was a little dykeling, I always wanted a chimpanzee as a pet so he could do my Saturday chores and then we could hang out in our tree house looking at Playboy.

Carrying the film is silly hunk James Franco doing what he does best: 1) furrowing his brow and 2) making ojitos, scrunching up his eyes and smiling at the same time.  (For more details about ojitos, ask your Tia Concha.)  Franco’s low key cinematic emoting is perfect as Will Rodman, a San Francisco scientist who has been working on a cure for Alzheimer’s disease that he’s been testing on chimpanzees in his lab at Gen-Sys. This genetically engineered juice has proven to give the chimps a level of human intelligence allowing them to text and bar-b-cue at the same time.

During an important board meeting, Will’s prized primate, Bright Eyes, escapes her cage and manages to burst into this sacred gathering, shrieking and out of control.  The screaming chimp scares the holy crap out of everybody and security has no choice but to shoot to kill. Irate because of this horrific situation, the big bad boss, Mr. Jacobs, orders all experimental apes to be put down. When Will and animal handler Franklin inspect Bright Eyes’ cage, they discover she has a freshly born baby and was merely trying to protect her child.  Franklin refuses to put down one more monkey so Will has no choice but to take the new hairy creature home for the night.

By the next morning, Will’s roommate and father, a retired music professor who now suffers from Alzheimer’s, comments that their new bundle of fur is very smart as the little one has no trouble making a cappuccino. The proud grandpa names his grandson Caesar, after the salad.

Across the screen flashes the words: 3 years later. Little woolly ball appears to be the equivalent of a super smart 8 year old as we hear Will’s voice as he records Caesar’s achievements:
“…Communicates through sign language, can play chess, knows my Wells Fargo pin number.”  Will’s voice-over is happening while we see his hirsute son wearing pants and swinging from place to place all over the house and in his bedroom—the attic, stocked with toys and other cool things like a woman making tortillas.  Cut to: Will and Caesar going to Daddy and Me yoga.

Meanwhile Grandpa’s Alzheimer’s is getting worse which forces Will to secretly administer the experimental drug to his father. Miraculously by morning, the professor is up early playing classical piano like Schroeder, Charlie Brown’s friend.

Soon enough, Curious Caesar cuts his leg and is in need of a vet.  Who better than to fix his ya-ya than the fiercely beautiful actress Freida Pinto as Doctor Caroline Aranha. As expected, Caesar plays matchmaker and brings his dad and the doc together. Truly Ms. Pinto doesn’t do much in the film other than being eye banana.

The new couple and grandpa take Caesar across the Golden Gate Bridge to the lush forest of Muir Woods where we see time pass as Caesar jumps from tree to tree. Caesar is now a young adult with his chiseled looks and muscular physique wearing skin tight Calvin Klein pants and a sweatshirt like the one Jennifer Beals wears in the movie Flashdance. He is a moody hombre refusing to get into the car as he questions his dad about his existence and wants to know if he’s simply a pet on a leash. That’s when my heart skipped a beat.  I pictured myself grooming Caesar, combing his head for ticks and singing, “I love him, I love him, I love him and where he goes, I’ll follow, I’ll follow, I’ll follow. I will follow him, follow him wherever he may go…”

I know Caesar is a computer generated character with the help of actor Andy Serkis but his philosophical approach to life, his soulful eyes, his dapper style and the way his hairy knuckles hang below his knees, make him irresistible.  Yes, he has his faults; he likes to throw his poop at pedestrians, but–who doesn’t.

Caesar becomes very protective of his family, getting him in trouble as he comes to rescue grandpa from the hateful neighbor.  His chivalry puts him in monkey jail and in no time he’s leading a chimp revolution, becoming the Che Guevara of the apes as they all make a prison break chanting: Si se puede!

In a matter of minutes, the shaggy mob is on the Golden Gate Bridge headed for the Muir Forest. In all the madness, Will knows where to find his son and meets him in the woods. Once there, Will begs his young man to come home. Caesar hugs his dad and actually says: “Caesar is home.” At this point, I was balling.

Born in an animal testing lab, his immigrant mother shot dead for being recognized as a terrorist, Caesar’s odds of survival are minimal yet he manages to achieve the American primate dream: a summer blockbuster movie. Hail Caesar!

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2 comments

  • Ces Rosales says:

    Monica,
    you are so funny! great take on the story – another hollywood formula massaged to suit the chimps!

  • Tisha says:

    Monica always makes me laugh out loud — sometimes at things that I probably shouldn’t. But her insight to any topic is always thought-provoking.