While I have full respect for the documentary genre, it is far from my favorite. Now, I realize that traditionally they’re meant to be educational, but I like them even more if they can lie on this side of entertaining as well. When it comes to the Disneynature films that have come back into the swing of things, they generally don’t have an agenda such as your standard Michael Moore film. Give me some astonishing photography (Earth), throw in some footage of my all time favorite animal: sharks (Oceans), or maybe have Samuel L. Jackson voiceover the life and times of the real life Lion King (African Cats), and I’ll look forward to every Earth Day release. This year’s Chimpanzee is no exception.
Narrated by Buzz Lightyear himself, Tim Allen, we set out on the coming-of-age tale of Oscar, our star chimp. As a youngster, Oscar is care free, getting his grasp on his world amongst the misty mountains one limb at a time. From playing with his fellow youngsters to trying out his own ability to crack a nut, we see Oscar in his daily routine. Whether getting a drink of milk or being groomed by his mother, it’s all just another day in the life for Oscar. There are also episodes of monkey cannibalism that’s not frightening for even the youngest of viewers, and the occasional territorial battle against another group of chimps, led by Scar. The real story comes into focus, unfortunately for Oscar, after his mother is killed off and he must fend for himself while trying to find a new caretaker in the process.
Knowing Chimpanzee is from directors Mark Linfield (Earth) and Alastair Fothergill (Deep Blue, Earth, African Cats, and the original BBC Planet Earth), you already know what you’re in for. Backing from the Jane Goodall Institute certainly doesn’t hurt anything either. As it is a Disneynature film, everything is played safe — even if you can tell that Tim Allen was probably told to bite his tongue and not spout off double entendres. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some hilarious ad libs that could be released in an unrated adult-oriented version on home video that would sell like hot cakes and be even more entertaining. His delivery is a far cry from infinity and beyond. James Franco would have been an inspired choice. But at least Allen gets to squeeze in one of his trademark Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor grunts. But we came here for the chimps, right? And they most certainly entertain, making Chimpanzee a swinging affair.
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