James Franco in 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes': What Critics Say

While billed as the star, many critics point out that Franco is outshined by the apes.

It looks like James Franco, who stars in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, is not actually the star. According to most reviews, the special effects and motion capture work of Andy Serkis as lead ape, Caesar, outshine any moments that Franco has on screen. The film, directed by Rupert Wyatt, received mostly positive reviews, but that didn’t stop Franco from receiving criticisms – and a couple jabs for this past year’s less than stellar Oscar hosting performance.

“Franco has some nice moments with Lithgow, himself just fine, but otherwise is mostly in fierce register as he contends with adversaries both at work and at the detention center,” wrote The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy.

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that Franco is “looking only slightly less stoned than he did at the Oscars.”

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He goes on to point out one major problem of the movie, in his opinion. “Franco is not the star. He is the co-star,” La Salle writes. “He plays a guy who feels a lot and cares a lot but more or less just stands around. Indeed, if Franco ever runs for president of the United States, this is his ‘Bedtime for Bonzo,’ because here he is playing second fiddle to a chimpanzee.”

Christopher Orr of The Atlantic agrees also brings up Franco’s Oscar performance: “In what is billed as the film’s lead role, Franco is nearly as listless as he was while handing out Academy Awards earlier this year. Indeed, there are stretches when his Will seems less a character than a narrative device, offering a tiresome series of expository voiceovers.”

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Manohla Dargis of the New York Times calls Franco “serious, focused, sympathetic” and writes: “Mr. Franco smartly decided that the actor’s performance should be delivered without knowing self-mockery, a strategy that helps keep the ridiculous story from collapsing into full-on camp.”

“Even as the movie grows stranger, more outlandish, and science bleeds into science fiction, Mr. Franco maintains a straight face, selling his relationships with Charles and Caesar," wrote Dargis.

Roger Ebert writes in the Chicago Sun-Times, “James Franco struggles with an underwritten role that shies away from philosophical and ethical questions and limits itself to plot points in basic English.”