I have been a fan of the Disneynature series of films since they started being released in theaters in 2009. When I saw the trailer for Chimpanzee, I thought that this might be the best of them so far. Unfortunately, when I actually saw the film, I was more than a little disappointed.
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The movie is a nature documentary following the story of a group of chimpanzees living in the rain forests of the Ivory Coast. The main focus of the feature is on Oscar, a young primate who is just learning how to survive in the world under the tutelage of his mother Isha. Unfortunately, Oscar’s tribe is in the middle of a turf war over some vital food, and in a land battle Isha is mortally wounded, leaving Oscar to fend for himself.
Life seems bleak for Oscar, as none of the other mothers in the tribe are willing to take him under their wing. He starts losing weight, as he is still too young to take care of himself without the assistance of others. Miraculously, Oscar finds a savior in the most unlikely of places…
I don’t know what it is about nature documentaries, but there is something riveting about watching animals in the wild. Even when they are doing the most menial of things, it can be fascinating to view.
Here, however, the footage captures a remarkable story that has never been seen before. An orphan chimpanzee, with no hope of survival on its own, is taken in by the most unlikely source in the group. While it has been hinted at before, the taking in of an orphan chimpanzee has never been captured on film before. The way that it takes place makes the situation all the more dramatic. This is the type of footage could sell itself if left completely silent, or even better, could be explained sufficiently well from the expert viewpoint of the filmmaker.
Instead, a supremely riveting story of real-life footage is nearly ruined by the cheesy narration of Tim Allen. What should be a dramatic film is turned into a collection of bad puns and unnecessary scripting. My personal pick for worst moment? When Oscar is learning to crack nuts with rocks and Allen makes a reference to his love of power tools before breaking out his usual “Home Improvement” chortle, which I believe he puts as a requirement into any contract he signs. This is clearly a Disney documentary, and you are trying to appeal to a younger audience, but you don’t have to sell out the real drama by trying to add in flimsy narration that is one step short of requiring its own laugh track.
Overall, I thought the footage on its own merits made for an extremely interesting story. However, it is impossible to ignore the narration of a documentary, and in this case, that knocks the entire film down at least a full notch. After the film states “The End”, there is some bonus time from the director talking about the trials and tribulations of working in the jungle for over a year to collect the footage used. There are also some shots without narration. Along with the trailer for the film, it shows the potential of what the film could have been without a sloppy, hackneyed narration from a third-rate comedian. Unfortunately, the product as is just isn’t as good as it could have been. 3 out of 4 stars
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Movie Mood: Family Movie
Viewing Method: Other
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Script