In Theatres: 
Apr 20, 2012

Disneynature has taken us to the depths of the oceans and to the rolling grasslands of the African wilderness, but for this year’s Earth Day they take us into the jungle to frolic with the chimpanzees.

Filmed across three years, Chimpanzee follows a group of chimps living in the lush jungles of the Ivory Coast and Uganda. The primary chimp is a newborn named Oscar who is just learning how to survive in this dangerous environment. Naturally, the film is filled with breathtaking landscape vistas and an abundance of cute chimpanzee antics. For nature lovers, it’s a must-see.

Surviving in the jungle requires chimps to learn how to gather food and avoid predators. For Oscar, this learning comes directly from his mother. Chimpanzee opens a window into the world of these primates and how they live and develop. Watching Oscar use logs to crack open the shell of a nut is very humorous, especially since the logs keep breaking. Only when he sees his mother using heavy rocks does he understand how to properly do the task. Too bad nobody told him to hold on to said rocks when gathering more nuts because as soon as he gets the hang of it, another chimp rushes in and steals his rock. It’s these little shenanigans that bring life to the film and showcase a view of chimps that we’ve yet to experience.

Towards the middle of the film, things take a turn in a drastic new direction as Oscar is adopted by the alpha male of the pack. It's actually quite amazing that the filmmakers were able to capture this all on tape, as something like this is rare. Not everything in the film is cute and cuddly, though. There's a rival chimp group that is battling with Oscar's group for their land, which is rich in food and resources. Tensions flare when this group invades the land for a dramatic coup d'état. The story the filmmakers captured presents itself quite well, despite a few rough patches.

Tim Allen lends his voice to the narration and while he’s a good fit for the role, he can be a little enthusiastic at times. There are moments where you simply want to watch the chimps engage with each other, but Allen will chime in with some cheesy ad lib for what the chimps are thinking. Sometimes it works, but the majority of the time it’s just corny. He also manages to somehow fit in a Home Improvement joke too. That’s how serious he is.

Visually, Chimpanzee looks fantastic. The jungle landscape is absolutely gorgeous with lush vegetation and impressive aerial shots that’ll leave you breathless. The film’s use of slow motion exponentially increases this brilliance as watching lightning slowly travel to the jungle floor or a rain drop hit a mushroom and erupt in a cloud of spores is truly a sight to behold.  Even if you don’t care about the chimps’ story, the visuals are worth the price of admission alone.

Chimpanzee is another solid film in the Disneynature collection that provides a look into the world of these versatile and often times human-like creatures. You’ll no doubt leave the theater with a smile on your face, whether it’s from the playful nature of Oscar or the sheer beauty of his surroundings.

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Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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