Published Apr 19, 2012A consistency amongst the family-friendly nature doc genre is that of mixing breath taking, "once in a lifetime" footage with cloying, anthropomorphised narration riddled with cutesy pandering and purple prose. It's as though the format exists as a defensive argument for naive optimism, projecting our culturally idealized sense of honour and morality onto the primal urges and survival instincts of animals, picking and choosing the elements of their lives that reassure our delusions of the world.
In the case of Chimpanzee, this is particularly apparent, given the story of young Oscar, who's orphaned after his mother perishes in battle, only to be adopted by the alpha male of the "gang." His upbringing, mixed with the obvious biological similarities between humans and chimps, propels what is intermittently an extremely compelling and gorgeously shot doc about the day-to-day existence of the chimpanzee.
But while the imagery speaks for itself, as do sequences of nutshell bashing and organized treetop assaults on prey, narrator Tim Allen injects the notion that, really, chimps are just like humans, only goofier. He even goes so far as to do his trademark Home Improvement grunting during the nutshell sequence, saying something vile about chimps needing more power.
From here, the constant barrage of poorly written and dreadfully contrived voiceovers does little more than induce gag reflexes and eye rolls.
Realistically, if theatre owners would just turn off the sound and let the audience view the remarkable big screen footage that Fothergill and Linfield were able to obtain, this Earth Day appropriate nature doc would be a remarkable film in its own right.
Instead, it's a frustrating watch that could have easily been aided by slightly more dignified and sporadic information that pertained to facts, rather than the usual Judeo-Christian Hallmark nonsense. (Disney/Buena Vista)