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Rated 3.47 stars
by 19 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Fun and Exciting
by James Colt Harrison

Hollywood’s fixation on gorilla movies started way back in 1933 with King Kong, the granddaddy of all gorillas. Kong has lasted lo these past 85 years to set the standard for all that came after. He fell in love with damsel Fay Wray in that film and climbed the Empire State Building to show his love for her. There was even a sequel called Son of Kong in 1933 starring Robert Armstrong and Helen Mack. Little Kong was less ferocious than his dad.

There have been a string of gorilla movies over the years, including Mighty Joe Young, made in 1949 with 19 year-old Terry Moore (now 89!), Ben Johnson and again Robert Armstrong. In this RKO Radio Pictures extravaganza, the big game hunters wanted to capture Joe and star him in a Hollywood nightclub show! Producers at Walt Disney Pictures and RKO thought so much of the story it was re-made in 1998 with Charlize Theron and Bill Paxton. They even dragged Terry Moore out for a cameo along with society dame Dina Merrill. Little person Verne Troyer donned a gorilla suit and played Baby Joe.

Fast forward to 2018, and we have world-favorite Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson doing his bit to revive the animal-themed epic with a whole new version of “man vs. gorilla” in director Brad Peyton’s Rampage. Johnson plays muscle-bound primatologist Davis Okoye who has a special bond with a rare albino gorilla George (played spectacularly by Jason Liles), whom he has raised since he was a baby torn from his mother’s arms by poachers. George looks like he went to the hairdresser and got his fur bleached and fluffed.

George is exceptionally intelligent -- as all gorillas seem to be -- and he has learned many things from Okoye. The one thing different about George is that he has a sense of humor and can more or less read Okoye’s mind as well as hand gestures. George has the ability to be sweet and adorable and funny. But he’s a wild animal with all of those inborn instincts of survival -- and he can roar when needed!

What’s an adventure movie without evil villains? This film has the requisite no-good characters in the form of genetic engineers who undertake an experiment that goes awry to disastrous consequences. Poor George gets inoculated with the experimental formula and slowly grows bigger and bigger. He and other animals are guinea pigs (without actually being guinea pigs), and grow to monstrous proportions. George’s personality changes for the worse. He is angry and upset and goes on a rampage. Of course, the special effects people take over, and wonderful scenes of buildings being destroyed and cars being squashed by George are a matter of routine. It’s all very exciting, however, so many viewers will be satisfied with all the chaos during the rest of the picture.

Mayhem breaks loose when George and a couple of Japanese-like Godzilla creatures get loose and begin their rampage across country to Chicago. They are being drawn to the city by secret radio waves designed to drive them crazy. Oh boy! Chicago gets destroyed as the unhinged animals climb familiar bridges, towers, and buildings. The glass-clad structures bite the dust like a stack of soda crackers and turn to dust as George and his fellow reptillian actors wreak as much havoc as possible. It’s all very thrilling to see, and one has to “marvel” at the cartoonish destruction designed by the clever special effects team. Bravo to them!

Strongman hunk Joe Manganiello helicopters over the raging animals and tries his best to machine gun them into swiss cheese. But the animals’ armor is too tough. Poor Joe, playing Burke, is no match for them.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan, as Agent Russell is added to the group as Okoye and Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), the rogue genetic engineer who helped develop the serum, join forces and have one thrilling ride in a cargo plane that is destroyed in the sky. Terrific action keeps you goggled-eyed for the entire sequence. Dr. Caldwell is desperate to stick a needle into George’s fuzzy arm and rid him of the vicious serum. Can she do it in all that chaos?

A big saving factor of this film involves the generous use of physical humor, both from Johnson and George, as well some funny lines written by the four screenwriters. It lightens what normally would be a film merely of heavy fighting, explosions, and destruction of skyscrapers. It’s a fun, exiting time for all ages and should put a spring in your Spring.

(Released by New Line Cinema and rated “PG-13” for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief language, and crude gestures.)

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