Published on April 20th, 2012 | by dvdpinson0
Chimpanzee Just in time for Earth Day
April 22nd is Earth Day and a perfect time to put something in the recycling bin, plant/hug a tree, eat/hug a huge salad of locally grown greens and trek to the local theater to see the latest offering from Disneynature. The specialty branch of the Mouse House has been releasing a film annually to coincide with the special day, starting back in 2009 with the appropriately titled documentary, “Earth”.
This year’s offering is “Chimpanzee” and I’ll give you three guesses which animal is featured.
No. Not lions. That was last year.
Firstly, I’ve been told to make it clear that “Chimpanzee” is not actually a documentary but a film that cobbles together actual footage of the apes to tell a fictional narrative. It is unclear what is staged or not but enough was added to this story that Disney would like you to know this info.
We meet Oscar, a tiny young ape who is entirely too cute. He lives in the African Rain Forest with a group of primates that spend most of their time eating. They eat nuts, fruit and the occasional monkey. The majority of the film is spent showing us this activity. The main allure of chimpanzees is that they can achieve some incredibly humanlike behavior. These particular apes use tools such as rocks and sticks to crack nuts and fish for insects. Very cool.
Unfortunately there are some mean and menacing neighboring chimpanzees, lead by the aptly named Scar (No. Not the lion) who would like to lay claim to the nut trees that thrive in Oscar’s territory. There are a couple of ferocious battles (At least they might be ferocious. To protect the film’s “G” rating, much gets lost in the more violent moments.) and Oscar loses his mother in one of the attacks. Good going Scar. Again: Incredibly humanlike behavior. Left alone, the little guy has almost no chance at surviving.
Tim Allen narrates “Chimpanzee” and he does a serviceable job. He shifts from moving the story along to giving us the inner-monologue of the various animals in a sort of “Bob Saget hosting America’s Funniest Home Videos” style. The filmmakers are able to obtain some incredibly intimate footage and it is easy to see the thought and ideas that churn behind these wonderful creature’s eyes.
The film, regrettably, is overlong, and there isn’t enough material to warrant the slim 75-minute running time. The chimps are shown doing the same activity over and again. More nuts being cracked by rocks, then more grooming. Scar and his posse of baddies are lurching through the forest about to attack for far too long. Then back to the eating and grooming.
Nature films do better when wide ranges of animals are presented. Something like “Oceans” where you get a little bit of whales, then a little bit of sharks mixed with some sea birds plummeting into the water. Or, if they were set on the single story angle, it has to be short and sweet. Last year’s Warner Bros. release “Born to be Wild” ran just over 40 minutes and felt perfect. If a grown man was squirming in his seat after only an hour and fifteen, how well to the think the five-year olds that the film is geared to are going do?