In “Chimpanzee,” the latest animal documentary to come from the independent film label of the Disney Company, Disneynature, we get to see…that’s right, chimpanzees. This is the sixth film from Disneynature, past movies have include, “Oceans” in 2009 and “African Cats” in 2010 and just like in all of those movies you get what you pay for. If you absolutely hate “Chimpanzee” then you’ve obviously gone to the wrong movie.
In it we get mommy chimps, baby chimps, old man chimps, mean chimps, lots and lots of chimps. In terms of quality the directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield deliver immensely, getting up close and personal, capturing all kinds of moments in chimpanzees’ day to day life, from finding food to just lying around. In addition, they’ve mixed in some cool looking stop action camera footage, focusing on things like plants growing and raindrops falling on top of some kind of weird brown plant that sprays out some kind of greenish smoke.
And believe it or not there is a main storyline, to make all this chimp-ery worthwhile and a charming one at that. “Chimpanzee” focuses on the tough but also gratifying childhood of baby Oscar. At first everything is just sunshine and roses for Oscar, he gets to ride around on his mom’s back while she goes out and gets food. Sometimes he observes what his mom and other chimps are doing (for example, how to crack open a nut) so he can fend for himself when it’s time to leave the nest, but for the most part it’s all fun and games.
Then, uh oh! A rival gang of chimp thugs led by one called Scar (who conveniently has a scar) attack Oscar’s clan and after a brief scuffle, he gets separated from his mom. Stuff gets real all of a sudden. Oscar is now an orphan living in a cruel chimp world having to take care of himself. But then, something miraculous happens, Freddie, the old and wise alpha male of the clan decides to adopt him. An unlikely duo: A lonely old man and a desperate orphan baby. Fothergill and Linfield have some how managed to find a Hollywood movie out in the wild…with chimps.
My only major qualm with the movie is the annoying narration by Tim Allen. Seriously it’s bad. I know that narration seems to be mandatory in nature docs, whether it’s some British guy on National Geographic or Morgan Freeman in “March of the Penguins,” and I usually don’t have an issue with it but in “Chimpanzee” Allen (or rather the people who wrote the awful narration) simply does too much. Instead of just giving us simple facts he feels the need to throw in jokes and make up dialogue between the chimps (like when Bob Saget hosted “America’s Funniest Home Videos”). Let the fricken chimps speak for themselves.
But look at me, I’m getting into a fight with a kid’s nature movie. “Chimpanzee” is a perfectly pleasant movie that families (the target audience) will fall in love with. I’m sure you could say that about any of the Disneynature docs but there’s something far more close and personal with chimpanzees, since they’re more closely related to us as opposed to whales.
It’s the kind of movie where a mom can whisper into her young child’s ear things like: “Look Billy! Look at the baby chimpanzee cuddle with the mommy chimpanzee.”