The documentary tells the story of a small band of chimpanzees in an African rain forest, and I left the theater feeling pretty good about life as a whole.
Tim Allen is our narrator, and he and the script do a fine job of connecting a human audience to the chimpanzee stars. We understand their need for food, their need for shelter, their need for family and friends, and their need to learn.
Our focus is Oscar, a young chimpanzee who’s as devoted to his mother as any human child would be. After a rival gang of chimpanzees attacks Oscar’s group, his formerly secure life starts to fall apart.
There are thrilling moments that had my 9-year-old daughter clinging to my arm and covering her eyes, but Disneynature wouldn’t put out a tale that ended sadly.
In fact, “Chimpanzee” delivers a third act that’s amazing to watch, as Oscar finds an unlikely friend to teach him how to survive in this beautiful and deadly part of the world.
The filmmakers turn the rain forest into a character, and I’m not sure they could’ve done otherwise. During the credits, you see how their difficult surroundings earned their respect. The film includes artful glimpses of the chimpanzee’s fantastic environment.
This is a slice of real life, though it’s been edited for plot and emotional impact. It’s hard to complain about such a simple, powerful story, but I thought it dragged at times. We spend a while watching chimpanzees break open nuts, but that also drives home how central those nuts are to the survival of Oscar and his extended family.
With half a chance, “Chimpanzee” will playfully climb into your heart. My daughter gives it an A. I give it a B plus.
It’s showing at the Cinemark in Tupelo.
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