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  Going Ape! O-Wrong-Utan
Year: 1981
Director: Jeremy Joe Kronsberg
Stars: Tony Danza, Jessica Walter, Stacy Nelkin, Danny DeVito, Art Metrano, Frank Sivero, Rick Hurst, Howard Mann, Joseph Maher, Leon Askin, Jacquelyn Hyde, Ted Whyte, Bob Terhune, Jaye Durkus, Angus Duncan, Ellen Gerstein, Poppy Lagos, Marji Martin
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Foster (Tony Danza) was not interested in the family business, and hence became its black sheep, having wound up selling chips from his office desk and claiming they're splinters from Babe Ruth's favourite baseball bat. But things may be looking up when he hears his father has died, and left him a special inheritance; the family were a circus owning troupe, and that included a collection of animals, so when Foster shows up at the reading of the will, he hopes for at least a little of his relative's fortune. What he actually receives are three orangutans, two adults and a baby, with instructions no harm should come to them if he wants to be awarded five million dollars as reward...

A confident contender for stupidest movie ever made, and that was a hotly contested designation, certainly out of Hollywood, Going Ape! was a family movie made by some of the people behind the Clint Eastwood Every Which Way But Loose and its sequel, which featured an orangutan heavily. Those were family movies too, but more for the dads to be indulged by given Clyde the ape was a beer drinking, bird-flipping ape about town which had a paw in the comedy. However, ever since those efforts were made, there were strong rumours the orangutans playing Clyde had been illtreated on the set, even to the extent of one of the animals being beaten to death as punishment.

This claim has never been entirely cleared up, certainly Eastwood never spoke about it, but it was true that their trainer Bobby Berosini was filmed beating his orangutans before a stage show, which led to a long-running set of legal actions where he tried to wriggle his way out of paying a hefty fine. Therefore you approach this little item with some trepidation, for the treatment of performing animals has been under increased scrutiny since the early nineteen-eighties and many productions prefer to use CGI to create their animal characters - this is even true of creatures like dogs, which are usually pretty easy to train. But there was not so much as a man in an apesuit for this one.

The trio of beasts here were for humorous purposes and, perhaps ironically, to be placed in peril from some conniving humans, who in the plot were trying to kill the apes so the inheritance could be awarded to the Californian Zoological Institute (a made-up organisation, in case you were concerned). Quite why these supposed animal lovers would be happy to see a creature shot dead by mafia mobsters (really) they have hired was a mystery the film did not delve into, as was the question of why Tony Danza and Danny DeVito from sitcom Taxi would be adept at taking care of the apes, but this was presented much like a sitcom anyway, with most of the action set in Foster's apartment until the finale where the story was resolved in a series of chases and escapes, much like a silent comedy.

But apart from the dubious practice of training orangutans to raise their middle fingers or throw pies at Tony Danza, there was much here that reminded you a family movie in the seventies and eighties was a far cry from a family movie in the twenty-twenties. There was swearing, for a start, and while you could not imagine a Pixar character saying "Shit!" there are plenty who do in this, along with other expletives like "Damn!" and "Asshole!" Then there's Jessica Walter's character, the mother of Foster's girlfriend Stacy Nelkin: she was playing it uptight and disapproving, so of course was the subject of sexual harassment from an orangutan and Danny DeVito in turn. Other examples of the tone deaf included a gag involving the nude body of a young woman in a morgue (!) and the baby orangutan being tied to a long plank of wood and genuinely being in danger of getting cut in half by a circular saw. Seriously, although occasionally you might laugh at the stupidity, you might more often shake your head and wonder what they were thinking. Music by Elmer Bernstein (slumming).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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