Cinema review: Chimpanzee

By Mark Shales

Ahead of Friday’s release, MM grabs a sneaky look at Disney’s latest wildlife documentary, Chimpanzee – one for the eyes more than the ears.

Walt Disney Studios are not widely known for their documentaries and yet this is the sixth full-length feature from DisneyNature – an independent off-shoot of the global franchise.

Shot over four years in the heart of the Ivory Coast’s Taï National Park, co-directors Alistair Fothergill and Mark Linfield offer up a family-friendly treat that will entertain young audiences, and fans of cute mammals.

Both have worked on the Emmy-award winning Planet Earth, but with the dumbed-down narrating of Tim Allen – Buzz Lightyear aside, not widely known for his voice work – this is certainly not David Attenborough.

All the footage is genuine, but Allen’s anthropomorphic dialogue gives it a TOWIE-esque, scripted reality feel to it, albeit with less fake tan.

The cameras follow Oscar – a three-month-old chimp guaranteed to melt even the toughest of hearts.

Together with his devoting mother Isha, he belongs to a troop led by alpha-male Freddy – a chimpanzee who looks more like King Kong than Bubbles.

Beginning at a gentle pace the audience gets to grips with rainforest life for the young primate – tree-climbing lessons, piggy-back rides and eating plenty of fruit.

Life is a simple bliss to Oscar and his pals… that is until we are introduced to the inevitable ‘baddies’ that make up any Disney feature.

Oscar’s troop go off in search of food, leaving their own territory and entering turf belonging to a rival group, led by Scar. Yes, really.

After a close encounter Oscar’s group makes it to safety, but it’s not long before Scar’s posse (who conveniently look much tougher and meaner) come calling.

During an attempted raid Isha gets injured and separated from her group, leaving Oscar confused and alone – those heartstrings will be tugged.

After suffering rejection from the others in the troop, the young hero finds solace in Freddy – forming an unlikely partnership that signals the film’s happy ending.

It won’t win over the nature purists, but then this is ultimately a children’s Disney film and with that audience in mind this is certainly a success.

The scenery is spectacular and the awww-inducing footage will no doubt leave many parents making excuses not to purchase pet apes.

While Allen’s narrating may well turn people off, a 77-minute film about a real-life baby chimpanzee will never be short of fans.

Image courtesy of Disneynature via YouTube, with thanks.

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