Lizzie and Ralph and George, Oh My
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Released April 13th, 2018
Primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) is a meek yet musclebound mountain of a man employed by the San Diego Zoo, who has formed a deep bond over many years with an albino gorilla named George (motion captured by Jason Liles). When he was only a baby gorilla, George was rescued from poachers by Davis, who was part of a military anti-poaching unit at the time.
Malin Åkerman knows exactly what kind of movie she is in and her performance is as delightful as her fate. She even has an original Rampage arcade game in her office!
Davis doesn’t like people very much, but he gets along famously with George. They communicate through sign language and even have a secret handshake of sorts: fist bump, middle finger. That George, he’s a jokester. A gentle giant. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. Until he slaughters another resident of his zoo, a grizzly bear. This is obviously out of character for George and Davis discovers that not only is his gorilla pal upset and frightened about what he has done, he has also inexplicably grown much larger in size.
Enter Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) who arrives on the scene to explain that she is a genetic engineer who used to work on a top-secret project that entailed “editing DNA” of various creatures to create bigger, stronger, angrier versions of said creatures. This sounds like a bad idea, but I do not have a PhD, so I’ll leave it to the academics.
This explains the opening of the film, in which we see a giant, angry rat causing havoc on a spacecraft. Things do not turn out well for the lone astronaut (Marley Shelton) on board with the oversized rodent. Remnants of the destroyed spacecraft hurtle toward Earth, deploying three canisters that strike different locations, releasing a spray affecting three animals: a wolf, a lizard, and George. Putting these canisters on a vessel in outer space seems like a bad idea, but I do not work at NASA, so I’ll leave it to the star sailors.
This aggro spray is known as Project: Rampage and is the brainchild of Energyne Chief Executive Officer Claire Wyden (Malin Åkerman), a ruthless businesswoman who employs her idiot brother Brett (Jake Lacy) as a lackey. Once the monsters make the scene, Claire turns on some sort of homing beacon located at the top of her company’s skyscraper in Chicago, causing the giant gorilla, lizard, and wolf to make a beeline toward her building in the Windy City. This sounds like a bad idea, but I am not in charge of a major corporation, so I will leave it to the CEOs.
Davis and Dr. Caldwell set off to defeat the monsters and save George, leading to an impressive all-out monster battle in downtown Chicago that is more than worth the price of admission, whether you are paying full price, or using MoviePass, or if you’re watching at home, having rented the film from an old-school video store, or if you are streaming the film through a high-tech video on-demand service. What I’m trying to say is, the battle is cool.
In his third teaming with director Brad Peyton (after Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and San Andreas), Dwayne Johnson, quite possibly our country’s future President, cements himself as THE modern-day box office champion, able to charm audiences even while surrounded by ridiculous computer generated monsters. P.J. Byrne does an alright job as Nelson, a scientist supporting character the film quickly forgets all about in deference to Naomie Harris as Dr. Caldwell. Harris doesn’t necessarily have chemistry with Johnson, but otherwise her character is solid.
If the best character in the film is Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Special Agent Harvey Russell, a G-man with a southern drawl who begrudgingly respects the mission Davis and Dr. Caldwell are on, the the worst character is without a doubt Jake Lacy’s Brett Wyden, the dopey brother of the villain who is never as funny as the script makes him out to be. On the flipside, Malin Åkerman knows exactly what kind of movie she is in and her performance is as delightful as her fate. She even has an original Rampage arcade game in her office!
Unlike 2014’s Godzilla and 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, Rampage doesn’t take itself too seriously and that is very much to the film’s credit. There is a lot of time spent building up the relationship between Davis and George, but thankfully the film remembers we are not here to watch a buddy comedy, we are here to see giant monsters fight.
Rampage toys are on sale now for kiddos who dig this flick, but I should point out that this film is rated PG-13 and features one frightening sequence involving Ralph the wolf that may give some youngsters, and Joe Manganiello, nightmares. Rampage is every bit as fun as the goofy 1980s video game it’s loosely based on and I would gladly welcome a sequel, should the cast feel like going on a world tour.