The Rock! Ginormous animals heading to Chicago! Bad dialogue! Cheesy special effects! How can such a terrible movie be this enjoyable? Let movie critic Moira Macdonald explain. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.
Only two things need to be said about “Rampage”: It’s really terrible, and I enjoyed it immensely. What, you want to hear more? OK, here’s why I loved it:
- The Rock. I know he’s Dwayne Johnson now, but I just want to call him, affectionately, The Rock. I don’t think he’d mind. In “Rampage,” he plays Davis Okoye, a primatologist who likes animals better than people (like every animal scientist in every movie ever) and who has taught sign language to his favorite silverback gorilla, George. Davis works in a wildlife reserve, where the animals are all calmed by his presence and in touch with their feelings, as well they might be. I certainly was. Even when he’s kicking in security doors, and helping people parachute out of falling planes, and magically flying broken helicopters — all of which he does in the course of this film — nothing rattles this man. I know I said this before when I reviewed “San Andreas,” but in case of disaster — natural or otherwise — I just want to be standing near The Rock.
- The Rogue Genetic Experiment Gone Terribly Awry. In a nutshell: Animals get really, really big — I could explain why, but it’s tiresome and you might start asking questions I’m not equipped to answer — and begin to rampage. George gets enormous and loses touch with his feelings. Some random wolf gets enormous (30 feet!) and joins forces with George, like some mutant animal-kingdom version of Bonnie & Clyde. They head for Chicago, prompting someone in, I think, the military to utter the immortal line “What are they doing, and why are they going to Chicago?” This inexplicably cracked me up. (Maybe they wanted to go to a Cubs game? Or take a meeting with Oprah?) Oh, and there’s also an enormous alligator-y thing, introduced with “There’s something big in the river!”
- The Discredited Geneticist. Shouldn’t every action thriller involve a discredited geneticist? Or at least a credited one? This one is played by Naomie Harris, who is an actual Oscar nominee (“Moonlight”) and maybe just wanted to stand near The Rock for a while. I can’t blame her. There’s also a Cagey Government Agent (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who snickers throughout, and I will not judge him for that.
- The Dialogue. Oh, the dialogue. From its very early scenes (“Something went wrong with the test!”) to its action sequences (“Get people the hell out of that city!,” as if emptying Chicago is just a matter of pointing to the exits) to its aftermath (“I can’t believe we survived that!” someone actually says) — it’s just deliciously bad.
- The Rock, again, because he almost made me believe everything in this movie, despite everything listed above and the cheesily grayish special effects (viewed, for the record, in 2D non-IMAX). Not because he’s an astonishingly good actor, but because he seems like he wouldn’t lie to us, and because he’s just good company. This is what movies like “Rampage” need, along with enormous animals on mysterious jaunts to the Midwest. Bring on “Rampage 2”!
★★½ “Rampage,” with Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello. Directed by Brad Peyton, from a screenplay by Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal and Adam Sztykiel. 115 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief language, and crude gestures. Multiple theaters.