Review: Disneynature's 'Chimpanzee'
BY MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer
Saturday, April 21, 2012
4/21/12 at 4:51 AM
There is a humanity to watching chimpanzees that is undeniable. There is a quiet gentleness in seeing them groom one another, like a female's fingers scratching a little one's neck in a maternal manner.
There is an inherent comedy in observing them crack nuts open to gain the meat inside, using one rock to slam down on the shell, and then upgrading to a larger rock to finish the job.
For "Chimpanzee," this year's Earth Day theatrical release from Disney's ecological subsidiary Disneynature, such an action is a perfect fit for narration by Tim Allen - he of the "Home Improvement" mindset that employing a bigger hammer is always the answer, accompanied by some primal grunting noises.
I realize some will roll their eyes at such a connection that is hammered home during the film. But I appreciated this light-hearted approach in opposition to the too-often somber, numbing narration that accompanies nature films.
These are chimps; they are funnier than most of the animal kingdom's residents; and we know that Allen likes to monkey around.
I'm not saying that "Chimpanzee" is greatly evolved from Disneynature filmmaking - which has progressed from "Earth" (2007) to "Oceans" (2009) to "African Cats" (2011) - because it's not.
I still watch in the sense that these pictures and their donation-drives feel like Disney's charity of choice as well as a vehicle to sell oodles of DVDs-as-babysitters for little ones.
I thought the same as I do every year: These movies are no different in quality than the high-definition Discovery Channel nature programs I've seen at home without buying a ticket.
The filmmakers working in collaboration with the scientific research seems solid as Allen's narration divides two competing chimpanzee groupings into something like rival gangs.
It's inevitable that a rumble will restore order to the jungle, where a more community-based group of chimpanzees enjoys an area bordered by a plush nut grove and waterfalls, and an alpha-male chimp group looks ready to attempt a hostile takeover of that turf.
It's a little "West Side Story" but without the romance and dancing, replaced by a thin narrative of finding food, scratching one another, swinging from limbs, repeat.
At least with "Chimpanzee," as we follow the story of little Oscar, a 3-year-old chimpanzee lovingly cared for by his mother until he's separated from her, we are offered the most intimate photography of this series of films.
The chimps simply don't seem to mind the close proximity of the cameras, allowing us close-ups of Oscar as he forms a bond with his mother, cuddling and following her lead on tasks.
The film is G-rated, and I only worried about that for one minute: The chimps eat nuts and fruit, but they also like meat. They hunt smaller monkeys at one point, and they catch one and make a meal, but we see nothing beyond one chimp gnawing on a bone.
So don't worry, parents. No animals were harmed in the making of "Chimpanzee" - by filmmakers, at least.
Stars: chimpanzees at play, narrated by Tim
Theaters: AMC Southroads 20, Cinemark
Tulsa, Cinemark Broken Arrow, Starworld
Running time: 1 hour, 18 minutes
Quality: (on a scale of zero to four
See "Chimpanzee," save chimpanzees
For every ticket sold to "Chimpanzee" during its opening-week run of April 20-26, Disneynature will make a donation of 20 cents to the Jane Goodall Institute to protect and save chimpanzees.
Original Print Headline: Disneynature offers intimate, if unevolved, look at chimps
Michael Smith 918-581-8479
"Chimpanzee," narrated by Tim Allen, follows 3-year-old Oscar as he is lovingly cared for by his mother, until he becomes separated from her. Courtesy