- Camera Work
Disneynature’s latest is Chimpanzee, a documentary narrated by Tim Allen that follows the story of a young chimp named Oscar. The film follows his daily life — frolicking in the forest and learning the do’s and don’ts of cracking nuts. Unfortunately, his happy childhood is interrupted by a tragedy and the newly-orphaned Oscar must now survive without his mother.
The film is rated G. As with any film with a child-friendly label, it’s important to find out whether or not it’s really appropriate and appealing to a younger crowd while still appealing to the older crowd. Of course factors like camerawork and editing are also important. Here’s how Chimpanzee measures up:
How Kid Friendly is It?
I give Chimpanzee a 4 out of 5 when it comes to kid-appropriateness. The narration is aimed toward a younger audience, so there should be no problem with a young’un understanding what’s going on. Likewise, it’s not just a list of interesting chimpanzee facts; there’s a good vs. evil storyline that plays more like a fairytale than a documentary. It features two groups of chimps: the good guys, including our hero Oscar and his mom, and the bad guys, led by a no-nonsense chimp named Scar. The bad guys are invading the good guys’ territory because of a coveted nut grove.
Unfortunately, that leads to at least one aspect of the movie that might make its G-rating a little questionable. The mother chimp does die; however, there’s nothing gory about it, we don’t see her body or anything, but there’s no denying that for the first half of the movie we see a happy mom and son having adventures and during the second half we see a neglected orphan. But don’t worry — this is Disney we’re talking about, so there is a happy ending.
There is a scene where the chimps catch and eat a monkey, and as you can imagine, it includes a bit of gore. Nothing worse than any other nature documentary, but it is a little awkward since the audience observes the good guys calculatingly hunt and kill another monkey. So if your kids are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the concept of death and the circle of life, you might want to give this movie a pass.
How Grown-up Friendly is it?
I give Chimpanzee a 3 out of 5 for its appeal toward adults. There were a couple of montages set to music that seemed campy, not to mention, the narrative was a bit over-the-top. Sometimes the chimps’ thoughts were narrated or a bad joke was thrown in. Again, it’s aimed at a much younger audience, so what’s a hit with the kids might come off as overbearing for the adults.
However, there is some truly fantastic camera work. Whether it’s an establishing shot of the misty forest in the morning or a sped-up image of a flower blooming, I say kudos to cameramen. As far as editing those images into a cohesive overall picture, it could’ve been done better. The time-lapse flora shots (vines growing, musrooms forming) are pretty nifty but seem kind of random when spliced in with the chimp footage.
Something that does appeal to theater-goers of all ages is Oscar, the star of the show. You can’t get much cuter than a tiny baby chimp swinging through trees with his tiny baby chimp friends. There were several audible “awwws” from the audience.
Is this movie worth the ticket price? Well, that depends. Don’t go expecting anything too educational, and the narrative falls short of satisfying a mixed-age audience. But the beautiful camerawork, heartwarming story, and adorable chimps more than make up for any shortcomings.
Chimpanzee is directed and written by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, narrated by Time Allen, produced by Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield, Alix Tidmarsh, and Don Hann, and edited by Andy Netley. Disney generously donates 20 cents of each ticket sale to the Jane Goodall
Institute for the Disneynature Tchimounga Nature Reserve Project. Learn more about chimps and how you can help by visiting www.janegoodall.org.