When was the last time you saw a film and helped save an endangered species? In the new film, “Chimpanzee,” Disney has partnered with the Jane Goodall Institute and is donating 20 cents for every ticket sold opening week. Aside from that noble gesture, you will have seen one of the most beautiful and touching films ever made about animals.
Filmed entirely in the wild (Ivory Coast) over the course of four years, “Chimpanzee” lets us get up close and primately personal with chimps. And there’s a story. It’s centered around an adorable newborn named Oscar whose sweet interactions with his mother are precious to behold. But as we begin to see so much of ourselves in these intelligent creatures, there’s evil lurking in the jungle.
A rival pack of chimps that covets Oscar’s territory because of its food source, viciously attacks Oscar’s band. Freddie, the alpha male leader of Oscar’s group, scores a military-like coup and the invading chimps retreat. Sadly, one of the fatalities incurred in the raid is Oscar’s mother. It’s a “Bambi” moment but, thankfully, implied and not visual.
When directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield were uncertain of Oscar’s fate, they decided that the film was over. The two were actually planning to call Disney and say, “Guys, we haven’t got a movie.” And, then, the most amazing sequence of events took place. In an unprecedented move, Freddie adopts Oscar who, in all likelihood, would have perished. This act of kindness defied all previous known characteristics of the alpha male chimpanzee, startling experts as well as the film crew.
Aside from a sometimes annoying and corny narration by Tim Allen, “Chimpanzee” is a masterful piece of filmmaking. The jaw-dropping cinematography (Martyn Colbeck) is artistically astounding. Spiders weaving fluorescent webs, raindrops plopping onto delicate mushrooms and brilliant sunrises are images so exquisitely shot it’s breathtaking to witness. A grandiose, sweeping score (Nicholas Hooper) is peppered with fun tunes, such as “That Man” and “Rize” which enhance the delightful playfulness of the young chimps. I actually found that the narration was unnecessary.
The enormous undertaking by the filmmakers is evident in every shot. Be sure to stay as the credits roll when they comment on their trials, tribulations and immense joys while making “Chimpanzee.” We also learn that poaching, habitat destruction and fragmentation have reduced the Chimpanzee population by 80% since 1960.
And that is exactly why everyone should see this thoroughly entertaining and educational documentary. chimpanzees stand to benefit by the “increased awareness of their plight.” So do something important for all of the baby Oscars and see “Chimpanzee.”
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- Thanks, Popcorn Bob! See YOU at the movies!
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