×
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.

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

  • International Film Festival and Awards Macao

    Macao Festival Signs Double Deals With Shanghai

    The International Film Festival & Awards Macao on Sunday signed twin agreements with institutions in Shanghai. The IFFAM, which is building towards its fourth edition in December, struck a collaboration agreement with the Shanghai International Film Festival. Separately, it is solidifying an existing informal arrangement with the Shanghai Film Art Academy concerning an exchange of [...]

  • wanda Movie Metropolis Qingdao

    Why Simon West Is Making Movies in China (EXCLUSIVE)

    British director Simon West (“Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” “Con Air,” “The Expendables 2”) is set to dive further into the Middle Kingdom at the helm of his second Chinese action-adventure blockbuster. The Wanda-backed “The Legend Hunters,” hits theaters next summer. West was brought onto the project by veteran producer Eryong, who had approached him about [...]

  • The Eight Hundred

    Chinese Research Group May Have Caused Cancellation of 'The Eight Hundred' Premiere

    Chinese authorities may have abruptly yanked the $80 million patriotic war epic “The Eight Hundred” the day before its opening-night premiere at the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival because it didn’t portray rivals of the ruling Communist Party in a sufficiently negative light, local reports said. Huayi Bros., which produced the film, had on Friday attributed [...]

  • Simon West

    Simon West Directing Chinese Tomb-Raid Movie 'Legend Hunters' (EXCLUSIVE)

    British director Simon West, who made Angelina Jolie-starring “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” is now co-directing a Chinese tomb-raiding film. “The Legend Hunters” is the next installment in the “Mojin” universe based on the popular fantasy novel series “Ghost Blows Out the Light.” Backed by Wanda Pictures and Beijing-based Saints Entertainment, the film is set for [...]

  • Emu Runner

    Sydney Film Review: 'Emu Runner'

    Writer-director Imogen Thomas’ debut feature “Emu Runner” has and probably will play in designated family-themed strands of film festivals, and given its story of a 9-year-old Aboriginal girl who deals with grief in the wake of her mother’s death by bonding with a lone female representative of Australia’s largest native bird species, this programming strategy [...]

  • Sophia Antipolis

    Locarno in Los Angeles Film Review: 'Sophia Antipolis'

    There are two Sophias in French director Virgil Vernier’s clever, cunning, chilling fifth feature. The first is its setting, the eponymous “Sophia Antipolis,” a technology park in the south of France, a place self-consciously designed as an experiment in social engineering, where an international community of professionals would, it was hoped, create an environment of [...]

  • I Lost My Body

    Netflix Pickup ‘I Lost My Body,’ ‘Buñuel,’ ‘Away’ Top Annecy Festival

    ANNECY, France  — Fulfilling expectations, Jeremy Clapin’s “I Lost My Body, the subject of one of the highest-profile Netflix deals at this year’s Cannes, won this Saturday the Annecy Festival’s top Cristal Award of best feature plus, in a relatively rare Annecy double whammy, the festival’s Audience Award. The first was expected, the second a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content