Going Ape

When I think about friends I’ve had throughout my life, one common thread that runs through all of them is the ability to get excited about something. The “something” is only of secondary importance (though I’m sure if you were passionate about something I find loathsome, a friendship might not work out). But the ability to get into something, feel strongly about it, argue about it, write about it, make lists about it, or just generally be about it is apparently something I find important in people.

While it’s essential that you have the ability to get excited about something, it’s even better if you can muster enthusiasm for next to nothing. Which brings us to Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes.

If you recall—and Jesse and Rob get into this in more detail—in the summer of 2001, there wasn’t much to get excited about. Before Burton’s Apes, the big blockbuster-type movies that year were The Mummy Returns, Pearl Harbor, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, The Fast and the Furious (surprise hit!), and Jurassic Park III. Okay, we also had Moulin Rouge and A.I., but it was a summer of slim pickings. I still went to the movies often, but there was not that much to really rev up the anticipation engine.

With enthusiasm to spare and nowhere to direct it, and being a bunch of kids on college break living out in the suburbs, Burton’s Planet of the Apes became The Thing We Get Excited About among my friends. I don’t really remember how or why it was chosen. (I do have a theory about how suburban upbringings and unconditional love for Tim Burton go hand-in-hand, but that’s a different post for a different day.) I just remember that it was decided: We Will Go All Out for Apes. And we did.

I love this photo, and not just because you can’t see me in it. First off, you can see that we got big group to go to the movie in the first place (six in the photo, me taking the photo, and at least one more in the photo below). If this movie came out today, I don’t know if I could scrounge nearly 10 people to go see it unless it had a good Rotten Tomatoes score.

Also, we brought apes! And monkeys, of all sizes. (I’m pretty sure that purple one up front is mine, and his name is John Flansburgh because I bought him at Serendipity 3 after a They Might Be Giants concert.) One of my friends brought an ape so big, I was afraid they were going to make him buy a ticket for it.


We were definitely Team Ape. You can’t see it in the photos I think a few of us even drew “GO APES!” on ourselves, homecoming pep rally-style. It didn’t matter that the movie wound up falling into the bottom tier of Apes movies and the bottom tier of Tim Burton movies.

It’s pretty easy to find a friend that will go with you to a critically acclaimed, Oscar-preordained, box office smash. But if you find people who will go with you to a possibly junky, head-scratching Mark Wahlberg vehicle—and bring stuffed animals, and write on themselves, and generally root for the apes, well, then, that’s a friend for life.