Rated G 78 min. 2012

The fourth of Disney’s annual Earth Day documentaries — after Earth, the elegant Oceans, and last year’s African Cats — we have Chimpanzee, which is easily the worst of the lot. This has little to do with the footage that directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield have gathered, which is admittedly impressive; that the most entertaining bit of the film is the behind-the-scenes making-of that goes on over the end credits is pretty damning praise. No, the film’s biggest problem is how simplified, and often scattershot, the whole thing is. I understand that seen through the eyes of a child (Chimpanzee’s target audience) the content is supposed to take on a different form, where simplicity is welcome. But this seemingly self-imposed simplicity is also the film’s biggest problem. For a film that is targeted to kids as educational, it’s instead unfortunately flimsy, and never quite shakes the feeling that it’s dumbed down. But even giving Fothergill and Sinclair the benefit of the doubt, there’s still a slew of strange decisions. We get the normal humanizing of these animals, as the footage is framed to tell a story, but there’s barely enough going on here to justify a feature length. From reading interviews with Jane Goodall, I understand that some of the footage, like the alpha male of the group adopting a young orphaned chimp, is incredibly rare. But I had to read about this after the fact. Never is this sense of awe or importance passed along to the audience. A lot of the blame goes to the directors, of course, but Tim Allen’s somber narration doesn’t help. Tim Allen is bad enough; sincere Tim Allen is even worse.

Film Credits

Official Site:

Director: Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield

Producer: Alix Tidmarsh, Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield

Cast: Tim Allen



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