While watching DisneyNature’s latest effort, Chimpanzee, I was reminded of some of the shows I used to catch as a kid during TV’s Wonderful World of Disney. I remembered being wowed by the cool nature footage that Walt’s army used to catch, and I also remembered that the narration would bore and/or annoy me in contrast.
Such is also the case with Chimpanzee. The footage of a little chimpanzee orphan dubbed Oscar is amazing stuff. Oscar, an energetic 3-year-old, is a cute little shit, and I could watch hours of footage featuring his adorable eyes and natural sense of mischief.
As for listening to Tim Allen narrate the story of Oscar and his predicament (“Power tools … grr!”), I was longing for the voice of Morgan Freeman or James Earl Jones. Or perhaps even the famous primatologist Jane Goodall, who served as an advisor on the flick.
Huge credit and awe for the camera work of directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield. If, while watching the extremely close action of Oscar and his troop of chimps, you guess that the crew got their footage via zoom lenses from many yards away, guess again. Credit footage reveals that the crew was right in the thick of things covered with camouflage.
That’s amazing, considering that there are large, potentially volatile chimps in Oscar’s clan. Oscar is, in fact, adopted by the group’s intimidating alpha male, dubbed “Freddie” for the film. How the human crew managed to capture their footage without losing their limbs or their heads to Freddie is beyond me.
And, according to the filmmakers, the act of Freddie adopting Oscar after he loses his mommy is a landmark moment captured on film. It has been observed that adult male chimps don’t often do that sort of thing. As the film depicts, his actions may’ve been a catalyst in an attack by neighboring chimps looking to steal his area’s food.
Even if it did put his group in a bit of a pickle, it’s a great thing to watch Freddie interact with Oscar. Some of the movie’s more fascinating moments involve the two goofing around with mouthfuls of food, or Freddie showing Oscar how to crack nuts properly. Oscar smacking himself on the toes with rocks provides a couple of laugh-out-loud moments. It must hurt like a bitch, yet he just goes about his business trying to crack his nuts and get a snack, much like I do with whole walnuts during the holidays.
Little kids going to see this movie will probably be baffled by the notion of chimps eating tree monkeys, but that’s exactly what happens when food gets a little scarce. If those same kids know their Lion King, they might also be confused by the film’s villain, an ugly, menacing neighbor chimp named Scar. He shares his name with Lion King’s villain, which might prompt many a child to ask, “Say mommy, why didn’t the big ugly chimp have the voice of Jeremy Irons?” Eh, probably not.
It would be interesting to see a film about the docile tree monkeys just going for a jungle stroll when a pack of voracious chimpanzees attack them and eat one of their brethren. As cute as these chimps can be, you must remind yourself that they will tear your face off and eat you. So, please, don’t go adopting any chimps, Michael Jackson style, resulting in your neighbors getting their faces torn off, making you the guest of dishonor at all future street parties. This concludes the PSA portion of this movie review. Thank you.
I can understand getting a big name to narrate your nature film. Perhaps the goofiness of the Allen narration isn’t entirely his fault. But some of his efforts at dramatic tension or comedy are quite painful. They don’t completely derail the film, but they do kill the momentum at times. Straightforward narration would probably work better for adults.
Then again, this one is also intended for kids, and they’d probably prefer the voice of Buzz Lightyear hamming it up as if he were reading them a story at bedtime, rather than the voice of Darth Vader.