Planet of the Apes
dir. Burton
Opens Fri July 27
Everywhere

As promised, Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes is upon us and it stinks like feet. If you like spaceships (first 10 minutes) and screeching apes, this film has 'em, but that's about it.

In case you've been off-planet for awhile, the Apes franchise began in 1968 with Planet of the Apes, starring Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, Roddy McDowall, and Linda Harrison. It spawned four film sequels and two television series in six years. The total cost of producing the five films came to $85 million less than the 2001 remake.

The pricey Burton version of Apes begins on the space station Oberon, where chimpanzees are in basic astronaut training. Human astronaut Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg), who is stationed there, brazenly defies orders and hijacks a ship in order to rescue his screw-up prized chimp. There is a short and sweet crash sequence, leading to the first obligatory ape chase.

Formally known as Marky Mark, triple-nippled ("bitches like to suck it,") Wahlberg is a flat-out dud as Davidson and should go back to spankin' his monkey in Calvin Klein ads. For a guy whose only talent seems to be fiddlin' with what's in his underpants (he dedicated his 1992 autobiography to his "Dick"), you'd think he would have taken his shirt off at least once. In the original Planet of the Apes, even Moses himself, Charlton Heston, stripped nude for two scenes. Besides, if the apes saw he was packing an extra tit, they may have been a little nicer to him when he landed.

Paying Mark Wahlberg $10 million for appearing in this film, even with the superfluous nipple, is like paying a high-class hooker to shit on your toothbrush. There's no point, it's a waste of cash, and if you're Tim Burton, you end up with egg on your face. For his amateurish performance, Wahlberg burns Burton for a million dollars more than the entire budget of the original four sequels put together.

With that kind of cash, expectedly, the special effects, ape costumes, and makeup are superior to the earlier Apes flicks, but fail to make up for the lack of story and performance. Ape City looks great, as do the scores of apes leaping around, flying from tree to tree, beating down and killing the human inhabitants. Battle scenes range from brutally savage to epic, but are followed by one of the lamest 'underdog' scenes ever filmed. As a million apes descend upon the pitiful crowd of human refugees, Wahlberg gives a two-dollar pep talk ("Come on! Let's go! Come ON! We only have one chance!"). The toothless hippie-extras stand there like Tim Burton just told them they were all getting castrated on their lunch breaks that day.

If anyone saves this film from Wahlberg's sophomoric clutches, it's Tim Roth (General Thade) and Paul Giamatti (Limbo). They are the most believable in evocation, artistic expression, and delivery. Thade is a murderous chimpanzee who is constantly on the move, killing, slashing, screaming, and snorting, while slave-trader Limbo, the cunning coward, gives a slightly better-than-typical comic edge.

The rest of the cast couldn't act their way out from under a shade tree with a halogen searchlight. Charlton Heston, as Thade's daddy, has a deathbed scene that is moribund and laughable. Helena Bonham Carter (the sniveling chimp liberal, Ari) looks like a cross between Jennifer Aniston and a Monchichi. The much-discussed (and removed as a ratings ploy) human/ape coupling between Wahlberg and Bonham Carter is barely even hinted at. The equally platonic human love interest, Daena (Estella Warren), is about as interesting as Warren's cleavage and poofy lips allow her to be, exacting zero empathy when she's beaten and branded.

Throw in a bland and predictable ending, and you have the most anticipated letdown of the summer. Sounds like a three-pronged blockbuster to me.