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Review: 'Chimpanzee'

See this and find yourself uttering, "Oh, how sweet!"

I knew that sooner or later, I’d see a movie with REAL animals and think to myself, “Wow! What wonderful CGI’s or animatronics.” Blame it on years of seeing films such as Planet of the Apes, Aliens, Men in Black, to name just a few. We’ve all been bombarded for so long by the artifice of films that reality comes as a sharp slap to the mind.

One of the pleasures of the new documentary Chimpanzee is to remind us that no matter how far visual technology has come since the dawn of the computer age, there ‘aint nothing like the real thing, baby. 

  • Chimpanzee is one of the movies playing this week at .

Although probably equally suited to home viewing with the kids, the film is gorgeously shot in the rain forests of the Ivory Coast, although Gabon and Uganda are listed in the credits as well. Take your pick. 

Chimpanzee benefits from jaw-dropping scenes under the jungle canopy of chimp families going about their daily lives and struggling to eat, rest, find a place to bed down for the night, and as such, we can all relate to behavior that is only a few chromosomes separated from us Homo Sapiens.   

We have much to learn from these often adorable creatures in terms of what life is really all about. The trappings of modern civilization fall by the wayside as we immerse ourselves for 90 minutes or so in the simple act of survival portrayed.  

It is, of course, the “baby” chimp, Oscar, who is meant to steal our hearts, and steal it he does. It might he helpful to wear your Ipod ear-buds and ignore the truly horrendous, hokey and ill-advised narration voiced by Tim Allen. If you recall Morgan Freeman’s over-the-top anthropomorphizing endlessly in March of the Penquins, you’ll get the idea.

Do we really know what these animals are thinking, as much as we’d like to apply human attributes? Why not just observe them as animals as the great Jane Goodall has urged us to do during her distinguished career with the chimps.  

Filmmakers Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield have provided stunning up close and personal images that are sure to remain with us and move us long after the film ends. Less narration here and the total absence of the asinine “Disneyesque” cutesy soundtrack songs would’ve made this one an animal classic for the ages. 

You are well advised to stay for the credits where we see the agonizing, daunting task by the entire crew to film amidst dangerous insects, snakes and the more aggressive apes themselves; heroes all of them.   

The frequent appearances of the “evil” chimp, Scar, and specifically a scene of the chimps stalking and eating a monkey might be a unsettling for very young children but also a sobering warning that we must always admire but respect and honor animals as they exist in nature..

Most touching are the scenes when, miraculously, the orphaned (and seemingly shunned) Oscar is adopted by an older male. We can’t help but collectively melt as our brave little guy hitches a ride on the back of his new dad. I hope he makes it!

Jeff Klayman is an award-winning playwright whose works have been produced in New York, Los Angeles and London. He also wrote the screenplay for the independent film Adios, Ernesto, directed by Mervyn Willis.

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