The world in which we live is a magnificent and beautiful place. Getting to see new nooks and crannies of it; getting to see and hear more stories about people, animals, and everything else in it; and generally becoming more aware of this planet on which we live is a good thing. Now, if you have fun whilst exploring the world as well, that would just about be the ideal.
For the past five years on every Earth Day, Disneynature has brought us a new look at some aspect of our world. Their latest film, Chimpanzee, was released on Earth Day in 2012 and has just now hit Blu-ray. Directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, Chimpanzee is the story of one baby chimpanzee and his first few years of life. It is a touching, engaging story and one which features the same great cinematography the other Disneynature films offer and that is truly the reason to watch.
The film is narrated by Tim Allen. He gives us this story of a young chimpanzee, Oscar, and Oscar's tribe of chimps. Well, it's not exactly Oscar's tribe as Oscar is but a baby, but you get the idea.
At the outset of the film we see how Oscar grows and strengthens and explores his boundaries. Things rapidly shift however, and as publicized as those shifts are in much of what you read about the film, to me, they would be considered "spoilers." Had I known where Oscar's personal journey was headed when I began the film, I would have been greatly displeased.
What I will discuss is the unfortunate way in which the film builds the backdrop to Oscar's personal life. There is, nearly from the outset, a discussion of this other, seemingly evil, group of Chimps led by Scar. Now, while the film doesn't denote them as evil, a Disney film using a famous Disney villain's name for the head of the opposing force (and Scar does lead the opposing force) means something. This natural fight for food between the two groups is a through line in the movie, but it feels overly forced. The film is far too invested in making this tale of animosity work, and attempts to create this strong narrative where it seems not to exist. Yes, there is a battle between the two groups, but this relatively short feature (78 minutes) spends so much time creating this obvious tale of fighting that they have too little time left for other things.
What we lose by telling the story of the fight between these two groups of chimps is a larger and deeper look at the world in which they live. We are given too much surface and not enough substance.