From the studio that brought us Oceans, Earth, and African Cats, Disney Nature now releases Chimpanzee, a three-year process of exploring and following chimpanzees in the wild. Narrated by Tim Allen, the movie bears some drama, some comedy, and some action for the whole family. It’s nature in your living room, if your kids aren’t enough!
I was tempted to watch this movie with the sound off. I love Tim Allen, and I think he’s both funny and insightful, but there was almost too much human involvement in the tale. When the rain is falling as we watch the chimps eat a beehive, we don’t need the monologue. We can’t tell if the story Allen is narrating is actually what happened or an imposed storyline over a nature element?
Our “hero,” Oscar, finds himself alone, and tries to get himself adopted. But this is pretty tricky, similar to being a teenager getting adopted in your native country. You’re not quite cute, you’re an extra mouth to feed, and everyone has their own concerns when straying through the “jungle.” Here, the elements include nasty army ants, a predatory gang of chimps led by “Scar,” and the search for food that often leaves our chimp hungry.
Again, watching the high definition version of this, and hearing more about how the film was made and the footage collected, is amazing, educational stuff. But it’s somewhere between The Shaggy Dog and Oceans when Allen narrates a tale that can come across as sometimes flip and sometimes funny. We can see the need for family in the wild; we can be encouraged to hold our own families close to us; we can see that community is important no matter where you live.
But is this story one that really needed a voiceover?