×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Chimpanzee

Visually stunning, almost impossibly intimate results is welded to a creakily executed story and narrated by a schticky, frequently bellowing Tim Allen.

With:
Narrator: Tim Allen

From his groundbreaking work on the BBC’s “Blue Planet” and “Planet Earth” series, Alastair Fothergill has established himself as the foremost auteur of nature documentary filmmaking. Directing here with Mark Linfield, he turns his attention to the social structure of chimpanzees, with visually stunning, almost impossibly intimate results. Unfortunately, this footage is welded to a creakily executed story and narrated by a schticky, frequently bellowing Tim Allen, too often betraying the beauty of the imagery. Young kids should love it, promising respectable B.O. returns, but given such once-in-a-lifetime footage, one would have hoped for more.

A Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release of a Disneynature production. Produced by Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield, Alex Tidmarsh. Executive producer, Don Hahn.

Fothergill’s previous Disneynature project, last year’s “African Cats,” also combined elegant photography with a hokey story and kid-friendly narration (from Samuel L. Jackson), but the film at least knew when to let the footage speak for itself, and the superimposed story was more simply sketched.

Here, the narrative concerns an immensely adorable 3-year-old chimp named Oscar, and follows him as he navigates the complex ape hierarchy and learns the ways of his elders. However, a rival band of chimps from the wrong side of the tracks, led by the villainous Scar and always accompanied by doom-laden score cues, is poised to impose on their territory.

After a territorial battle, most of which appears in the form of whip pans and rustling trees, Oscar’s mother is killed, and he must find a new parental figure or risk starvation. If Oscar’s real-life fate mirrors the one depicted here, it reps a genuinely heartwarming turn of events, but given the sometimes visible string-pulling going on to shape the story, one is never sure just how seriously to take things.

Unlike the cheetahs and lions of “African Cats,” the chimps here are so eerily humanlike that giving them jokey personality traits feels even more unnecessary than usual. As expected, the primate behavior on display is fascinating, as deftly framed by the filmmakers; one could watch this band of apes make tools and crack nuts for hours. A particularly masterful sequence sketches out the pack’s intricate strategy for hunting a high-perching group of monkeys, although the presumably brutal aftermath is understandably edited out.

Allen’s narration is clearly aimed toward younger viewers, but his habit of indicating tension by simply yelling frequently breaks the film’s spell, and a forced instance of “Home Improvement” quotation provokes heavy groans.

Like many of Fothergill’s previous projects, “Chimpanzee” is chockfull of art gallery-worthy time-lapse landscape photography, and one insert sequence of falling raindrops causing seed pods to burst into steam could easily be spliced into a new cut of “The Tree of Life” with no one batting an eye. Sound design and editing are thoroughly pro.

Popular on Variety

Chimpanzee

Docu

Production: Directed, written by Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield.

Crew: Camera (color), Martyn Colbeck, Bill Wallauer; editor, Andy Netley; music, Nicholas Hooper; sound, Tim Owens; supervising sound editor, Kate Hopkins; re-recording mixers, Matthew Gough, Andrew Wilson. Reviewed at Walt Disney Studios, April 6, 2012. MPAA Rating: G. Running time: 78 MIN.

With: Narrator: Tim Allen

More Film

  • Radioflash

    Film Review: 'Radioflash'

    It’s the end of the world and they know it in “Radioflash,” a neither-fish-nor-fowl tale of survival after a massive, seemingly permanent power failure. At first this seems a fairly straightforward “what if” scenario of one family’s coping with the rapid breakdown of society in an unprecedented emergency. But first-time feature director/co-writer Ben McPherson eventually [...]

  • Imax logo

    Imax China Hires Edwin Tan as CEO

    Former conferences and exhibitions executive Edwin Tan has been appointed CEO of Imax China. He replaces Jiande Chen, who now becomes vice chairman of the company, having headed the company since its inception in 2011. Tan was previously CEO of the China business of leading events firm Messe Muenchen. Before that he held roles at [...]

  • Alexander Skarsgard in the front rowGiorgio

    Film News Roundup: Alexander Skarsgard Joins 'Passing' With Tessa Thompson

    In today’s film news roundup, Taryn Manning, Shane West and Alexander Skarsgård have new roles, and Warner Bros. unveils a modernized logo. CASTINGS Alexander Skarsgård has signed on to join Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga and André Holland in “Passing.” The film marks Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut and is based on a screenplay that Hall adapted [...]

  • Spike Lee

    Spike Lee to Direct Hip-Hop Love Story 'Prince of Cats'

    Spike Lee will direct a big-screen version of the hip-hop love story “Prince of Cats,” based on Ron Wimberly’s graphic novel. Legendary has been developing the project with Janet and Kate Zucker of Zucker Productions. Lee, who won the Academy Award for adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman,” will also re-write the “Prince of Cats” script with [...]

  • DOLEMITE IS MY NAME!, 2019, DOL_Unit_06284.RAF

    'Dolemite Is My Name' Writer Larry Karaszewski Recalls 10-Year Journey to Make Rudy Ray Moore Biopic

    “Harriet” writer-director Kasi Lemmons was in a reflective mood at Tuesday night’s “Behind the Scene” event at the Formosa Cafe in West Hollywood, sponsored by the Writers Guild of America West. The biopic, starring Cynthia Erivo as slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman, has been receiving buzz since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s Lemmons’ [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    Abrams Artists Agency Signs Writers Guild Deal

    In a major triumph for the Writers Guild of America, the Abrams Artists Agency has signed the WGA’s Code of Conduct, allowing the agency to return to representing WGA members again. Chairman Adam Bold made the announcement Wednesday, saying that the agency wants to put its clients back to work. He also noted WGA West [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content