01/05/2012. Contributed by Frank Ochieng
Earth Day is celebrated in the spirit as it is intended—to observe and appreciate the wonderment of our exquisite ecosystem. Well, Disney Nature has astutely made its notable tribute to our planet’s environmental cause courtesy of its affectionate nature documentary Chimpanzee, a gloriously quaint and affecting family-friendly movie that shines a touching spotlight on primates both in playful and periled predicaments.
Beautifully shot with captivating footage, a mesmerising and picturesque tropical location and of course an adorable star worth going bananas over…namely our scene stealer baby-faced Oscar the chimp.
Filmmakers Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield (“Earth”) concoct a canopy of visual vibrancy that radiates in this adventurous nature exposition. Both youngsters and grown-ups alike will marvel at the scenic landscape that is the Tai rainforest of the Ivy Coast. The wild chimpanzees are an intriguing spectacle as a species. One can definitely develop their inner Jane Goodall tendencies when checking out Chimpanzee as a meditation in finding heart-warming and heartbreaking impulses regarding these amazing creatures. The tranquility and treachery is equally compelling as the skilful primates are featured at the mercy of their challenging surroundings.
As narrated by television veteran/comedian Tim Allen (from TV’s “Last Man Standing”), Chimpanzee follows the exploits of cute and cuddly Oscar as well as a selected troop of chimps living within the rainforest’s dense trees. Isha, Oscar’s mother, oversees her impish offspring as he explores his region with an abundance of curiosity and learning. Oscar is just as engaging and precious as a human toddler whose need for love, attention and guidance is essential as it plays a major role in shaping his existence.
In addition to the mother-son tandem of Isha and Oscar, we are introduced to another tree-climbing cohort named Freddy. As a somewhat clumsy way of producing tension in an otherwise innocuous showcase of these pesky primates, we are subjected to another group of trouble-making chimpanzees—led by the menacing Scar (no doubt an intentional reference to Disney’s iconic protagonist in The Lion King) and his monkey business minions. They look to make trouble for Freddy and Oscar when they innocently travel in their marked territory looking for food.
The depth of Chimpanzee probably is not anything special beyond a nature program one might see on PBS or the Animal Planet channel for that matter. Plus, the filmmaking duo of Fothergill and Linfield miss a golden opportunity to serve up the statistical realities of the carefree chimps they creatively aim their cameras at so enthusiastically. For instance, why not include alarming titbits about how endangered the chimpanzee population is nowadays? Additionally, how does human interference play a factor and alter the livelihood of these imperilled chimps within their habitat?
Maybe Chimpanzee was not meant to be deep on a level of expectation as their televised nature documentary counterparts? Nevertheless, this narrative is robustly photographed and has a sincere reverence for showing us the anthropomorphising of these resilient rascals long identified as being our “genetic” cousins. Thankfully, the advanced filmmaking technology allows the moviegoer more flexibility in getting intimate with arousing nature-oriented entertainment. Thus, one can revel in the charismatic scope of Chimpanzee beyond its embedded sentimentality.
Hopefully other family-oriented fodder can be as uplifting and aesthetically layered as the gently gripping Chimpanzee. The genre of highlighting the some of the Earth’s most unforgettable inhabitants can be such a stimulating and educational rush to the viewer that cares about the boundaries of their mysterious planet’s playground.
And if the expressive eyes of baby Oscar does not bring an instant grin to your face or a spontaneous tear to your eye then someone is definitely monkeying around with your vacant heart.
Chimpanzee (Disney Nature)
1 hr. 18 mins.
Starring: Tim Allen (narrator)
Directed by: Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield
MPAA Rating: G
Genre: Nature Documentary
Critic’s rating: *** stars (out of 4 stars)
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