Chimpanzee (2012)

Would have been a lot cooler if they were filming a real-life documentary of Caesar in the wilderness, and I don’t mean Julius.

Little Oscar is a chimpanzee living with a close “family” in the Taï Forest of Africa’s Ivory Coast. He learns how to find food by watching his mother, and frequently hitches a ride on her back. When tragedy strikes and Oscar cannot find his mother, he is rejected by the other chimpanzees with one surprising exception.

It seems like around “Earth Day” (4/20 joke) every year, we get these Disney Nature movies where they show us the beauties of nature and they are basically just one episode of something you would see off of National Geographic, but given an A-list name to narrate it and is on the big screen. This one isn’t as bad as I may make all those others sound anyway.

What I liked about this documentary is that directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield weren’t afraid to get up-close and personal here with these chimps, and it does not only this film, but the chimps themselves a lot of justice. We get to see how these chimps use their skills to get food like hitting a nut with a rock, using sticks like straws to gather up ants and termites, and also even killing other monkeys. This was a big shock to me considering I never knew this kind of stuff even happened and the way they show it is a little scary at first. I mean they practically corner this monkey and rip it up to shreds, and even though we don’t get it all in gory detail, we still can make enough pictures in our heads. This showed me that the film wasn’t going to just give us the cute and cuddly side of these chimps, we were going to see the real thing, even if that does mean they can be a bit wild sometimes too.

You also get a real sense that these animals actually have personalities rather than just being little fury things. It’s crazy how so much of this just happened the way these people captured it. All of these chimps act a certain way that makes sense and isn’t too far from how we act so it’s very easy to see how we have evolved from them. These little baby chimps play like normal baby humans would, parents care for their young much like humans do (without all of the picking), and the protective skills against anybody who tries to hurt a loved one is pretty much the same exact thing. It’s crazy to see what we all have in common with them and I’m glad that this flick was able to inform me of that once again.

The problem with this documentary is that I think it’s a little too dark for the the audience that it’s advertised for. The film is rated G but there are a couple of scenes where absolute havoc and dismay happen that actually caught me by surprise by how dark and scary things got for this flick. When Oscar loses his mommy, a little girl in my movie theater was actually crying her ass off the whole time and as annoying as it was for me to just sit there and listen to it, I still couldn’t believe the fact that stuff like this shouldn’t be so dark for little kids. Then again, it’s how nature works so maybe it wouldn’t have been right to cut it out all just because of one little girl. Also, I didn’t pay for this ticket here (shhh…don’t tell AMC) but I did check it out and it’s very short for, almost a little too short for the full price ticked you would have to pay if you wanted to be a nice, common-folk citizen. Not necessarily a complaint, as its more of a warning to people who don’t want to spend too much money on a 1 hour and 18 minute movie about a bunch of chimps running around.

Many people have said that they didn’t really like the narration by Tim Allen here but I have to say that it actually brought a lot of warmth to this story and I think he does a good job with it. Allen isn’t really a guy who would be my first choice to narrate my nature documentary (probably because he hasn’t done anything in the past 10 years worth mentioning that isn’t animated) but I think he brings a funny feel and vibe to it that helps the film out even when it starts to get a tad dark.

Consensus: Chimpanzee may not be the perfect fit for the kids but it’s a very beautiful and surprisingly detailed documentary that takes you into the life of a little chimp named Oscar and all of his furry, little friends.




  1. I actually haven’t watched any of those Disney nature documentaries, always assuming that they can never reach the high quality of the BBC output.

  2. Looking forward to catching this one. The other Disney docs haven’t really caught my eye like this one. There’s something about the human nature in chimps that just intrigues me.

    Great review – has made me want to see it more!

  3. Interesting film and review.
    I have also noticed how Disney always seems to put out similar films around Earth Day, which has proven to be a good tactic given the unexpectedly large audience they have found.
    It’s a little troublesome to think that we are expected to pay full price for a documentary that could very well be in NG or Discovery, not to mention it’s only over one hour.

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