Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Chimpanzee (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


For the Chimpaholics among us, we can all breathe easy once more with the generically-titled "Chimpanzee" directed by Alistair Fothergill and Mark Linfield. It is the most recent film in a series released by Disneynature. 

"Chimpanzee" has a startling immediacy  with a unique painterly appeal. From the very start, the jungle of The Ivory Coast serenely faces us with all the  magnificence of a Chinese Landscape: black peaks of India ink are surrounded by smoky blue vapors. Then it is day. Our calligraphic vista merges into an aerial shot showing bountiful trees as big blossoming heads of green broccoli. After all,this is Disney where life is always in technicolor and seldom mean.

We are introduced to Oscar, an adorable baby chimp who would charm The Grinch. Oscar tags along with his mother Eesha on various food gathering errands and such. Oscar almost invariably gives beseeching melting eyed looks and barely anything other than Baby Oscar needs to be on-screen. To watch him is a singular joy. The narration by Tim Allen, never overly sweet or cloying is reminiscent of the legendary Disney narrator Rex Allen, no relation to Tim.

But things are not all green and rosy in  Mickey's Jungle. 

A rival family of chimps threaten Oscar's family, not to mention the prized nut groves that Eesha and her group depend on. A feud soon rages that rivals "The Sopranos" in all its domestic anxiety and peer-pressure paranoia, albeit without guns or graphic violence. Thank Goodness. The head villain is a simian Brando and his nickname is Scar. Perhaps I'm being too picky here, but couldn't the writers call him something else? Scar has already been used in "The Lion King". 

Just in case Tim Allen's folksy and fatherly narration wears on you just a little, keep in mind that this film is meant for kids. It is less edgy than the anxious "Project Nim", but then again I can't take anything away from it. The cinematography is first-rate, showing a  bouncing, brimming and rocking terrain that is at once rich in harmony, but also phosphorescent in nocturnal apprehension.

"Chimpanzee" will ultimately entertain and dazzle your eyes, and while it will spare you the punchiness of its earlier celebrity primate, it shows a world as it is, before any sapien or simian misunderstandings. 

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