'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' monkeys with self-destruction

In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, James Franco plays a scientist whose wonder drug and hubris help speed along the end of mankind. A prequel to the 1968 film Planet of the Apes, the new movie is an amusing way to envision the end of human civilization.

Franco's Will Rodman hopes to cure Alzheimer's disease and has been testing his formula on his prized chimpanzee, nicknamed Bright Eyes (a nod to the first film). One day, while Will is trying to convince his boss of his drug's worth, an agitated Bright Eyes suddenly tries to bolt and is shot down, killing not only her but the project.

Will, however, takes her baby, which he calls Caesar, who is then raised by Will's own father, Charles (John Lithgow). Growing up fast, Caesar soon becomes more than Will bargained for.

Along the way, Will acquires a girlfriend (Freida Pinto), to give the film a love interest, while Charles' own dementia grows worse. Gambling, Will tries to use Caesar to cure his father. You know that isn't going to work out well.

Directed by Rupert Wyatt, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is smart enough to raise all the ethical and moral questions tied to drug testing and experimentation, but it doesn't get bogged down in them.

Where it excels is in the special effects, especially in creating Caesar, who is given life by combining performance-capture technology using Andy Serkis' moves and computer-generated imagery. Serkis is the actor behind Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the latest King Kong.

By the way, we hear that no animals or humans were hurt in the making of this film.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes retails for $29.98 or $39.99 Blu-ray.