By Michael P Coleman

“Lions and tigers and bears!  Oh, my!” 

That’s sooooo 20th century. 

Rampage, the latest film by the most surprising movie star in recent memory, Dewayne Johnson, gives moviegoers a great, two-hour chance to reframe that familiar motion picture refrain for a 21st century, CG-craving audience.  How’s…

“Primates and ‘gators and wolves!  Oh, sh%t!” 

This year’s popcorn movie season is off to a great, thrilling, funny, plot-impaired start with Rampage.  Johnson plays a primatologist (I learned a new word during the film!) whose buddy, George, is a lovable albino ape that starts the flick with his best effort to steal it from “The Rock.”  I was worried for Johnson for a minute, but his undeniable charm, excellent comic timing, and penchant for a well-delivered one-liner put him squarely in Bruce Willis / John McClane / Die Hard territory in this one. 

Thinking about it, I realized I shouldn’t have been so surprised.  Johnson showed the world he could act and entertain two decades ago when he created his WWE character.  But who knew he was honing gifts that could carry a summer blockbuster contender like this one?

Fairly early in Rampage, you realize there’s more to George than meets the eye…or there certainly will be.  And he’s joined by other “special” animals that soon are tearing across North America, destroying everything — and everyone — in their paths.  There’s a great nod to the classic Alien movies in this one, featuring Joe Manganiello.  Blink and you’ll miss it.  On second thought, maybe you should close your eyes. 

Close. Your.  Eyes. 

Johnson is joined by Naomie Harris, whose character continues the trend of showing that women of color can and do excel in the sciences, a la Black Panther.  Her chemistry with Johnson is electric, and left me hoping that if this one doesn’t get a sequel, we get to see the two on screen together again. 

Most of Rampage’s special effects are absolutely stunning.  THIS ape bears very little resemblance to 1933’s stop-motion King Kong or any other primate we’ve seen on screen.  George is Jurassic Park-level menacing.  But he pulls it all together in time for a 3rd act that reminded me of the best of the Godzilla franchise. 

The only effect in the movie that needed some serious help was Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s horrible “cowboy” accent, even as the repeated “cowboy” references reminded me, again, of Die Hard.  The accent was so bad I actually chuckled when I wasn’t supposed to — and now that I think about THAT, maybe director Brad Peyton intended it as a Die Hard nod! 

Even without the accent, there were plenty of opportunities to laugh during the movie, like when a wounded, battered Johnson crawled back into the fray.  I told you!  It was Die Hard all over again. 

Yippee-ki-yay, MFs!  I LOVED Rampage! 

Rampage is playing at theaters everywhere. 

Information on Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman and Coleman Communications is available at michaelpcoleman.com

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