Film & TV

"Chimpanzee" a Family-Friendly Heroes-and-Villains Adventure

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. 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. 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 voice-over 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.

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Benjamin Mercer