If you are a fan of Zoboomafoo, ZooBooks, or enjoy watching Jack Hanna, Disney’s Chimpanzee is right up your alley. This story about a young, orphaned chimpanzee named Oscar is truly adorable, and will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy upon exiting the theater. This movie isn’t like most nature documentaries, in that it is clearly geared toward a children’s audience – which is both the movie’s strength and its weakness.
The movie follows a band of rival chimpanzees – one led by Freddy, and the other by Scar, as they spar over the dwindling food supply that their area of the African forest provides. We are given glimpses into the life of the chimpanzees as they forage for food, groom, play, and sleep. Narrator Tim Allen does a great job of getting the audience involved in the story with a touch of humor; however, after a mere twenty minutes, the goofy humor and speaking to the chimpanzees like they can hear what he is saying gets old.
Another factor that makes this movie less than enjoyable is the use of time-lapsed shots of growing plants and swarms of ants that speckle the movie more frequently than they should. These shots lasted for minutes at a time, and really seemed more like a way to fill space to get the movie near 90-minutes, rather than to be useful in any way.
Still, the movie is very enjoyable in many other aspects. For instance, the way that the plot line for the movie is developed is very interesting. We are given the opportunity to root for Freddy’s underdog group of chimpanzees, we get the opportunity to watch Oscar grow, and we are able to learn about everything it takes for these chimpanzees to survive the wild.
One especially interesting piece of this movie came at the end, as the filmmakers gave us a glimpse into what went in to making the movie, including hiking through the jungle, dealing with swarms of sweat flies, and attempting to find the chimpanzees in the rain. This extra tidbit really helped to reinforce that the movie wasn’t staged, and gave a sense of authenticity to what was just seen on screen.
Overall, I would say if your kid (or you) are a chimpanzee nut, go for it. It is interesting and tame enough for those youngsters. If you have seen Planet Earth, or prefer The Discovery Channel to PBS children’s shows that feature a lemur, skip it. It’s interesting, touching, and heartwarming, but not worth it if you are more interested in being informed versus being attacked by cuteness.
Chimpanzee - 6.5/10