By Calum Marsh
By Michelle Orange
By Michael Atkinson
By Simon Abrams
By Zachary Wigon
By Aaron Hillis
By Casey Burchby
By Stephanie Zacharek
Disneynature's latest Earth Day release hunkers down in an Ivory Coast rain forest, taming its beasts-in-the-wild raw material into a family-friendly (though not totally sugarcoated) heroes-and-villains adventure, as did the brand's previous film, African Cats. Chimpanzee follows energetic young primate Oscar, still reliant on his mother, Isha, for food and protection. Conflict arrives via a fruit-and-nut-based turf war: Local alpha male Freddy leads his charges against an enemy faction of chimps, headed by the sinister-sounding Scar (echoes of Mouse House favorite The Lion King). During one interclan dustup, Isha goes missing, leaving Oscar to fend for himself. Strictly from a nature-doc angle, Chimpanzee is impressive stuff. Directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield get up close as the chimps go about their daily routines (grooming one another, cracking open nuts, hunting monkeys); the filmmakers also nicely depict their animal subjects' domain through occasional teeming-forest time-lapse and sweeping views above the canopy. The burden of massaging the natural-habitat footage into an intelligible rival-families narrative, though, falls to the voiceover script. Throughout, narrator Tim Allen shuttles between a jokey primer on chimp society and a basic play-by-play during the more action-packed scenes—the constant stream of explanation often detracts from the heart-of-the-jungle sights and sounds on display.
Am I the only one who thinks "critics" should find another day job? First we're coerced into believing we must trust "experts" to tell us how we should raise our children, treat our bodies and act in relationships. Now we need critics to tell us what movies, music & art we should like? Give me a break! Besides, most critics are completely misinformed when it comes to the topics the movies they are criticizing are covering. For example, Benjamin Mercer apparently believes the folks at Disney named the chimps in "Chimpanzee," citing a Chimp named Scar and then referencing The Lion King, implying this was a lame ploy on Disney's part. Uhhhh maybe someone should tell him Jane Goodall actually named that particular chimp Scar due to an actual scar he has on his body, as well as all the other chimps in the movie, while she was studying them. I'm just fed up with so-called critics, always judging, so seldom creating.
You are imputing to Mercer something that he never said. He takes issue with the way that the film unnecessarily creates a narrative whereby Freddy & co. are "good" and Scar and his "thugs" (that word choice alone makes the point) are bad. If you saw the film, you know that Mercer is indisputably correct in pointing out that Allen's voice-over does this; the point, of course, is that there is no good or bad, in our humanistic sense, in the animal kingdom.. Hence the fact that the rival's having the name Scar, which will certainly make any viewer think of The Lion King, is particularly ironic, regardless of who chose it for him.
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