Entertainment :: Movies

The Ape

by Phil Hall
Monday Mar 20, 2006
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Mmmmm, James Franco! Who cares if he can act or not? As long as he’s shirtless and smiling, James Franco is among the best eye candy on the screen today.

So why would he need to get serious and direct and co-write the darkly satiric film The Ape? Who knows? Maybe he wants to show there’s more to him than a set of abs and a sparkly white smile?

Unfortunately, The Ape is a pile of ape shit – an ill-conceived, boring and puerile exercise in self-indulgence. This direct-to-video mess should serve as a lesson to anyone who wants to make a serious statement via film – if you don’t have the talent, don’t do it!

Franco stars as a human resources officer for a phone company who fancies himself as a writer. Unable to produce his fiction at home (the wife and kids get in the way), he rents an apartment – and discovers there is an ape living there. Not a real ape, but a movie ape: an anthropomorphic simian wearing a Hawaiian shirt and speaking slangy English. Even worse, the ape is a bit of a homophobe – he chides Franco’s alleged lack of manhood by breaking into Judy Garland songs!

Ultimately, the ape eggs Franco’s character to get in touch with his “inner ape,” if you will. This is not the best advice and the film veers off wildly into a Twilight Zone-style twist which has little to do with the silliness that preceded it.

As a director, Franco is awful – he never knows where to place the camera, how to block a scene, or how to get the best from his cast. His script (co-written with Merriwether Williams) is juvenile when it tries to be funny and emetic when it attempts to make a serious psychological statement.

And, yes, Franco gets shirtless – 22 minutes into the film (good things come to those who wait). But it is a short-lived victory: at that point, his buff body is splattered with ape excrement. Hey, if that’s your cup of banana tea, go for it.

Interview with James Franco.

Phil Hall is the author of "The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time


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