Opening just in time for Earth Day, Chimpanzee is a moving look at Oscar, a three-year-old chimpanzee who is separated from his mother and becomes an orphan. Unable to find the care and help he needs, Oscar could face starvation. That’s when the unexpected happens. An adult male named Freddy begins to take care of Oscar, saving him when nobody else would.
There seems to be one question at the front of everyone’s mind regarding this film: is it appropriate for children? Parents can be assured that the film is not frightening at all. In fact, Chimpanzee actually seems geared towards the younger crowd. The film is filled with cute images of Oscar and his mother Isha, along with the other chimpanzees in their group. The addition of Tim Allen as narrator adds some warmth to a potentially frightening situation, and may have some of the older kids thinking of Buzz Lightyear.
A lot of the marketing seems to imply that Chimpanzee is focused on Oscar becoming an orphan, which is probably why parents are concerned about content for young kids, but that moment doesn’t come until quite late in the film. Most of the film is about the group of chimpanzees that Oscar lives with and how their daily life can be a struggle. A rival group of chimpanzees make a few attempts to push Oscar and his group out of the nut grove they live in. Since it supplies a generous amount of food to eat, it’s an area that all the chimps want to control.
With Tim Allen providing light narration, even the moments where the two groups try to chase each other away from the coveted land becomes a little bit comical. This was quite apparent to the older members of the crowd when the lead male chimp from the rival group was introduced as Scar. There were a few laughs from the adults, but it’s a great way to make the film entertaining for children while still being interesting for adults.
Disneynature also handles the more intense moments of the film with respect for the younger crowd. Oscar does become an orphan in the film, which was my concern for my own children, but his mother’s death is never shown. The narration lets us know what has happened, allowing kids to continue to enjoy the movie without being upset by the idea of losing a parent.
Directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield do an incredible job at not only showing the life of the chimpanzees, but at portraying the beauty of the forest around them. There are some spectacular shots of rivers and waterfalls, as well as all kinds of other creatures in the forest. One scene of the forest at night stands out as the camera pans across fallen trees covered in mushrooms that glow a brilliant green. It doesn’t even seem real, and it’s incredibly beautiful.
Before the credits roll at the end of the film, we get to see a bit of behind-the-scenes action from the crew. Some of the ways they go about capturing shots are quite creative, and we’re even given a glimpse at some of the hardships the crew faced. It’s nice that the audience gets to see how passionate the crew really is since we never see them in the film.
Children will have a wonderful time watching Oscar in his day-to-day life. Adults may find the film a bit childish at times, but it’s a great family film and you’ll be helping a worthy cause as well. Disneynature is donating $0.20 from every ticket sold during the opening week to the Jane Goodall Institute for the Disneynature Tchimpounga Nature Reserve Project, so makes ure you see it in its opening week to support such a good cause!
Chimpanzee opens April 20, 2012.