Directed by Brad Peyton. Screenplay by Ryan Engle, Carleton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal, and Adam Sztukiel. A New Line Cinema release playing at Franklin Park, Fallen Timbers, Levis Commons, Bowling Green, and Mall of Monroe. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action, and destruction, brief language, and crude gestures. Running time: 107 minutes.
Critic’s rating: 1.5 stars
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
A derivative movie about giant monsters that is based on an arcade game about giant monsters that was inspired by movies about giant monsters, Rampage fails to excite or even engage the imagination.
The film isn’t well executed, even as a mindless (early) summer blockbuster, and it’s not really fun to watch these gene-altered CGI creatures — a gorilla named George, a wolf named Ralph, and an alligator named Lizzie (though her name is never officially mentioned in the movie) — eat people, destroy the military’s best weapons, and wreak havoc on downtown Chicago. And how is that NOT fun?
Fortunately, Dwayne Johnson is fun.
Johnson plays a primatologist named Davis whose best friend is a one-of-kind albino silverback gorilla (George) he rescued from poachers. Davis jokes with George daily through sign language at the zoo where one lives and the other works.
Then one of three top-secret canisters aboard a doomed space station crashes into the gorilla enclosure and infects George with its gene-altering gas. George doubles in size overnight and shows aggressive tendencies, such as easily snapping the neck of a zoo grizzly bear.
Another canister turns a Montana wolf into a huge snarling beast, which the Internet affectionately names Ralph (but in real life would have been Wolfie McWolfface), and the other creates Lizzie, the mutated Florida alligator who doesn’t appear onscreen until all three beasts arrive in Chicago after being summoned. (Don't ask.)
Fueling the film’s dumb plot of making animals huge and angry is the let’s-get-richer plan of a wealthy sibling pair who own the company responsible for the genetic mutating formula.
Conniving older sister Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) is the bright one of the pair, while her dim-bulb younger brother Brett Wyden (Jake Lacy) serves as the PR face. Both characters are equally insufferable, as are the performances of Akerman and Lacy. There is a giddy but guilty pleasure when the pair finally get theirs, but it can’t arrive soon enough.
As for the good guys, a disgraced geneticist (Naomie Harris) worked on the rampage gene formula to help save her dying brother but was fired when she learned how the Wydens really planned to use it. Now she's helping Davis find an antidote. A man-in-black government agent (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who speaks in a twang and makes colorful jokes, is around to assist the pair and the film’s plot when needed.
What Rampage really needs is that playful sense of fun that made the video game-turned franchise so popular. As any kid in a backyard sandbox will tell you, it’s fun to be big and smash things.
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