Friday, April 20, 2012
“Chimpanzee” directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield
Movie Review by Jack Silbert
I dig monkeys. I love monkeys so much that, even though I know I’m really talking about chimpanzees most of the time, I still call them monkeys. So I was pumped to see Chimpanzee, the latest release from Disneynature. Each Earth Day since 2009, this Disney film division has put out a new nature documentary: Earth; Oceans; African Cats; and now Chimpanzee. This was the first of those films I’d seen, and I hadn’t done any advance research on the movie, so I really went into it much like your kids might. Though maybe a little bit taller.
I was immediately struck by the beauty of the movie: through the hanging clouds, into the lush African greenery, down to the jungle floor, where we meet frolicking chimps. These filmmakers clearly know what they’re doing. Next we’re hearing a jaunty Louis Prima/Jungle Book-type number from a Christina Aguilera soundalike (Dutch singer Caro Emerald). And I quickly began to wonder: Is this going to be an actual documentary or goofy entertainment? The answer is: a little bit of both.
There is much cool stuff to look at, even if it’s not always explained: exploding mushrooms, a spider spinning a web, streams of army ants, strangely glowing plants, a very impressive storm, and more. During the storm, we learn that chimps hate getting wet. Yet, the other band of chimps uses this opportunity to advance on enemy territory. Do they have better umbrellas? Another contradiction: Does grooming establish chain of command or strengthen friendships? I’d guess both, but again, the film doesn’t spell it out. There is at least one sequence that might be a little upsetting for kids, though it is tastefully shot: the hunt, capture, and consumption of an (actual) monkey. Poor fella!
Jane Goodall Institute to further their work protecting chimps. Let’s hope they continue to delight us long into the future. Even if some of us insist on calling them monkeys.