After vexedly enduring our Bollywood and Kollywood jackasses acting like chimps in movie after movie for decade after decade, we decided to hit the theater today and see the real deal – the new Disney movie Chimpanzee.
Chimpanzee is one of those movies that’s hard to peg into a category.
It’s not a traditional nature documentary nor a typical drama.
So SI has slotted the film into a new category – DocuDrama, where Disney has blended emotional drama into a documentary to make the movie more appealing to a larger audience.
Does the move succeed?
Yes, but only to a degree.
Oscar – Chimp Hero
Set in the rain forests of Ivory Coast and Uganda in Africa, Chimpanzee follows the antics of a baby chimp named Oscar through his young and turbulent early life in the dense jungles of Africa.
Beautifully photographed by Martyn Colbeck, Chimpanzee is overall a pleasing affair.
Just remember not to expect the Oscar to perform an item number a la Sheila ki Jawaani. 😉
Despite the environmental holocaust perpetrated on nature by greedy, grasping humans, Africa still retains some dense forests with a lush canopy allowing little light to hit the forest floor.
But the jungle is a hostile environment for all its inhabitants and the chimps have a hard time.
Besides the constant struggle of having to forage for food (stuff like nuts or smaller monkeys), chimpanzees, which live in gangs, also have to fend off invasions from rival chimp gangs and contend with dangerous predators like leopards.
The movie does a good job of showing chimpanzees in their natural habitat, the hunt for nuts, berries or monkeys, use of stones and other implements, team work, fights between rival gangs and the stunning visual beauty of the forest, particularly in the night.
Add to that the antics of young Oscar, vainly trying to break open nuts, jumping around or hitching a ride on his mother’s back.
Not much to complain about, right?
But the folks at Disney thought it’s not enough to get the big bucks at the box office.
So Disney injects a big dose of drama into the documentary.
To add drama to the world of chimpanzees in the wild, Disney takes three steps.
Half way through the film, Oscar is rendered an orphan after a vicious fight between two rival groups of chimpanzees (yeah, between Freddy’s smaller gang and Scar’s larger group).
Second, the chimps are divided into two groups – the good guys (Freddy’s gang of which Oscar and his mother Isha are members) and the bad guys (‘thugs’ is the word used for the rival group led by an old chimp Scar).
Good chimps and thuggish chimps?
Now, that’s a silly distinction to swallow.
We suppose commercial compulsions and the need to draw in a younger crowd who can easily identify with concepts of good and bad must be the reason.
But to the adult mind, it seemed like a sophomoric exercise.
The final dramatic element is centered around Oscar after his mother’s death/disappearance.
Oscar’s struggle for survival and his eventual good fortune makes for interesting watching.
Chimpanzee is directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield and well edited by Andy Netley.
Tim Allen is the narrator.
Chimpanzee is a refreshing change from the endless run of romcoms or action thrillers inflicted on moviegoers.
If you’re as tired and vexed with seeing our Bollywood and Kollywood chimps, maybe it’s time to go and watch the real deal.
Chimpanzee is playing in theaters across the U.S.
Your kids will likely enjoy the film more than you.