‘Ram­page’ re­leases The Rock and some mon­ster beasts

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - LIFE -

Brian Truitt Colum­nist USA TO­DAY

If An­ni­hi­la­tion is the eggs Bene­dict of gene-splic­ing sci-fi film fare, Ram­page is the huge bowl of Froot Loops.

The au­da­ciously over-the-top ad­ven­ture rated PG-13; in theaters na­tion­wide) wrecks Chicago but isn’t a to­tal dis­as­ter. And for that, di­rec­tor Brad Pey­ton (San An­dreas) can thank his mas­sive stars: mus­cu­lar ac­tion-movie god Dwayne “The Rock” John­son and a mu­tated, mon­strous trio that in­cludes an al­bino go­rilla, a wolf with (no joke) bat wings, and a mam­moth toothy croc­o­dile with rhino-like horns. While sur­pris­ingly dark and a smidgen too earnest at times, Ram­page wraps silly spec­ta­cle around its emo­tional core: a bro­mance between man and beast.

Davis Okoye (John­son) is a pri­ma­tol­o­gist who runs the ape habi­tat at the San Diego Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary and a guy who’s the def­i­ni­tion of an “an­i­mal per­son,” spurn­ing flirty ad­vances from a col­league to hang out at home with his dogs. His best friend, though, is the go­rilla Ge­orge (played via mo­tion cap­ture by Ja­son Liles), whom Davis saved from poach­ers when he was lit­tle. They com­mu­ni­cate through sign lan­guage and share in­side jokes, though Davis knows some­thing’s very wrong with his buddy when Ge­orge ends up in the griz­zly bear en­clo­sure after a vi­o­lent out­burst and in­ex­pli­ca­bly starts grow­ing. And grow­ing. And grow­ing.

Davis learns Ge­orge has been ex­posed to one of three gas-filled can­is­ters from a ge­netic-edit­ing ex­per­i­ment gone wrong, and when the go­rilla gets rowdy in the park­ing lot, the in­ci­dent brings Davis an ally in dis­graced sci­en­tist Dr. Kate Cald­well (Naomie Harris) and a po­ten­tial ob­sta­cle in enig­matic gov­ern­ment agent Har­vey Rus­sell (Jeffrey Dean Mor­gan). Ge­orge es­capes from fed­eral cus­tody and heads to the Windy City, which also is in the travel plans for a 50-foot-tall snarling Colorado wolf named Ralph and gi­gan­tic rep­tile from the Florida Ever­glades called Lizzie.

Ram­page is based on the 1980s ar­cade fa­vorite, and while video-game adap­ta­tions are usu­ally trash, this one at least is com­pletely faith­ful, with huge crit­ters climb­ing, stomp­ing and us­ing a big city as their own per­sonal Amer­i­can Ninja War­rior course.

John­son is the key cog of a movie built for his phys­i­cal pres­ence, but it’s the re­la­tion­ship between Davis and Ge­orge that fu­els the plot. Aside from John­son, the hu­mans are a mixed bag: Malin Åk­er­man and Jake Lacy play a pair of cor­po­rate sib­lings whose com­pany is re­spon­si­ble for the ge­netic shenani­gans, but Mor­gan adds ma­cho moxie as Rus­sell.

Lessons aren’t usu­ally preva­lent in these kinds of movies, but this comes with one to grow on: Be kind to an­i­mals or The Rock will smack you.

WARNER BROS. EN­TER­TAIN­MENT

Davis (Dwayne John­son) tries to pro­tect his grow­ing go­rilla pal from the feds in “Ram­page.”

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