12/13/06

306 Time of the Apes

(1987, SciFi-Television/Children, color)

I don’t care!

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

Includes time travel and apes in fancy clothing, but Johnny doesn’t care.

Summary:

Wait.  Is this kid's name Pepe or Wicket?Johnny’s uncle works at a top-secret laboratory, dedicated to freezing monkeys. It’s at the foot of an active volcano, but Johnny doesn’t care. Naturally, Johnny and his sister Caroline get to visit him and play with his monkeys while he briefs them on all the details of his top-secret project. Then they get to wander the halls with his assistant, Catherine, peeking into the various top-secret rooms.

Johnny climbs into one of the monkey-freezing capsules, much to Catherine’s chagrin. Just then, the volcano erupts, showering rock down upon the laboratory. Catherine and Caroline jump into capsules as well, and a well-placed piece of volcanic rock falls through the ceiling and onto a lever, activating the freezing process.

They wake up in a strange laboratory and wander around until they run into some anthropomorphic apes in military garb. They run away, only to get chased down outside by the ascot-and-spur-wearing local military commander, an ape named Gebar (pronounced Gay Bar). Gebar harbors a deep hatred of “naked apes” (i.e. human beings) and takes them out to a field to shoot them. Luckily, the ape soldiers can’t aim well enough to hit even the palest and slowest of human targets, so Johnny and his friends get away.

Gebar sends his soldiers after them, urged on by the laughable-hat-and-cape-wearing District Manager. Johnny and company make it up Green Mountain, almost falling victim to a bunch of clumsy booby traps set by the ape world’s only other human inhabitant, Godo. Godo rescues them from his own traps and takes them home. After a heartfelt conversation and a shave reveal him as a nice guy, Godo’s little ape friend (the owl-faced Pepe) comes to warn them that Gebar and his troops have set the mountain on fire.

Gebar captures them (again) while they stumble blindly through the smoke. He tries to execute them (again) but he’s interrupted by a strange flying saucer that hovers around, and by the arrival of the Commander, a white-faced ape dressed like Colonel Sanders. The Commander forbids their execution and takes them all back to his compound.

They put Godo into solitary confinement, but Gebar defies the Commander’s orders, attempting to execute him anyway (again). Pepe sneaks in and rescues Johnny. Together they crawl through the air-ducts and jump on Gebar.

Godo, Pepe, and Johnny run away (again), then run back to the compound again to rescue Caroline and Catherine. Catherine doesn’t want to leave—the Commander is so nice, after all—but Godo drags her along anyway. They drop Pepe off with her mother. (Surprisingly, Pepe is a girl).

Gebar hunts them all down (again) and is about to execute them (again) when the flying saucer shows up and neutralizes their weapons. Johnny, et al. escape (again). They steal a jeep and decide to follow the flying saucer back to Green Mountain so that they can learn its secrets.

Meanwhile, the foppish District Leader takes over for the Commander in his absence, declaring himself ruler of the territory. The Commander comes back and deposes him easily, and they have an incomprehensible discussion about UCON, which I guess is the origin of the flying saucer.

Gebar disobeys orders and ambushes Johnny and company by himself. When Godo runs out of ammunition first, Gebar strides confidently out, gloating and revealing his belief that Godo killed his wife and son. The saucer appears and neutralizes his gun, then shows some footage of Godo attempting to rescue Gebar’s wife and son, while Gebar accidentally kills them when shooting at Godo.

The saucer leaves, Gebar apologizes, and the Commander shows up in his Buick Skylark to wish them well on their journey. Johnny and his friends make it to some doors in the mountainside and step inside. Everything goes dark. The end.

Well, not exactly, since Caroline, Johnny, and Catherine all wake up in the top-secret laboratory where they started. Caroline has some ape hallucinations, but in the end they’re welcomed back by Johnny’s uncle, who says it was probably all a dream and takes the children back to their parents. The end.

Just kidding. Catherine pines for Godo, and searches the fourth freezing capsule for him. All she finds is his necklace. She shows it to Johnny’s uncle, who explains that they must have been frozen well below absolute zero, which, as everyone knows, causes time travel. But where did Godo end up? The last shot is of Godo, walking across an unidentified sand dune. The end.

Well, not really. [Insert exasperated sigh here.] Catherine takes Johnny and Caroline out for ice cream so that they can discuss their adventures, and Godo’s ultimate fate. They decide that, wherever he might be, he will always be in their hearts. The end? I hope so.

Introduction:

A brave, brave actor.Joel, Tom, and Crow play T-ball. Joel swings the bat, Tom holds the ball on his head, and Crow holds the glove on his head. Their first swing breaks an outside window, causing explosive decompression. Gypsy scolds them, but they keep right on playing as soon as she turns her back.

Host Segment One:

Joel invents the cellulite phone, which inflates when you try to order pizza. TV’s Frank invents Miracle Growth Baby Formula, and feeds it to one of the kids in the Deep 13 daycare. It grows to adult size instantly.

Host Segment Two:

Tom narrates footage from the film as the fifties-style educational film, “Why doesn’t Johnny Care?” Crow provides realistic antique projector sound distortion.

Host Segment Three:

Joel and the ‘Bots do a reenactment of the Scopes Monkey Trial, as seen in the classic 1960 film, Inherit the Wind.

Host Segment Four:

Crow dons a beret and delivers an ape fashion report, commenting on all the foppishly dressed simians in the film.

Host Segment Five:

Joel and the ‘Bots sing the Sandy Frank Song to the film’s theme music. “Sandy Frank! Sandy Frank! He’s the source of all our pain.” Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank argue over who gets to push the button and who has to change the giant baby. The baby gets upset, exclaiming, “I’ll push the button!” “His first words!” cries Frank.

Stinger:

I don’t care!

Thoughts:

Our heroes, identifiable by their hairless faces and cheerful apathy.This film has so many good points—the non sequitur flying saucer, the exuberant color and pacing, the absurd melodrama, the poorly explained politics, the silly faux science, the apes who have modern weapons, but dress like nineteenth century riverboat gamblers—the sheer goofiness of it all overwhelms and impresses me.

The horrible dubbing provided me with my very favorite moment of the film. When Johnny’s parents warn him against going out while the volcano is rumbling, he exclaims, “I don’t care!” It’s clear from his tone that he’s not irritated, whiny, or angry, but cheerful, oblivious, and obnoxious, with not a single thought in his little head. It’s just the way the line comes out in context; it makes him sound like a complete and utter moron. My second favorite moment in the film is when, after ninety minutes of ambiguity, we discover the Ewok-ish Pepe is a girl.

There are bad points to the film as well. The action becomes boring and repetitive as our heroes get captured, escape, get captured again, and escape again in a seemingly unending story loop. The plot makes no sense at all. It’s been violently edited together (if you’ve seen it, you know what I mean) with footage from a twenty-six episode series. You can see the breaks in continuity when they start referencing things that we never saw happen. This happens especially towards the end during the failed insurrection, Gebar’s tragic story, and the Commander’s sudden friendship with Catherine. Also, the ending(s) drag(s) on and on without explaining anything at all.

The host segments all work fairly well, except the nonsensical Scopes Monkey Trial sketch in segment three. Mike Nelson shows up as the Miracle Growth Baby, and fusses suitably. The ape fashion and “Why Doesn’t Johnny Care?” sketches are just narrated film footage, but they’re functional sketches. This is the first episode where I can definitely tell that Gypsy’s smart, and in charge of the ship.

There are moments during the film segments that almost made me fall out of my chair laughing. The “I don’t care” line especially, though Pepe and the foppish apes provided much merriment as well. Joel and the ‘Bots hurl lots of poop-flinging jokes at the apes, including Tom’s assumption that the ape soldiers will do a “twenty-one turd salute.” When they first see all the ape scientists in the laboratory, Joel remarks that they’ve arrived at a planet of Ron Perlmans. The jokes seem to bog down when the film gets repetitive, and again when it just refuses to end. There’s enough funny stuff that I wouldn’t mind seeing this one again, but enough frustrating things about the movie and the host segments that I won’t go out of my way to do so.