Disneynature’s Chimpanzee can be the story of any young chimp and its group. They play games, learn life’s lessons, deal with turmoil within the group, forage for food, and fend off rival groups. But this movie is more than that; this is Oscar’s story.
Oscar is a 3 year old babe in a group of 35 chimpanzees. The group includes his mom, Iesha, 50 year old grandpa, Grandpa, and the alpha, Freddie. Oscar enjoys life playing with other young chimps and being the center of mom’s attention. It will be many years before Oscar can fend for himself, relying solely on his mother until then.
While following Oscar, the film shows us a unique insight into the chimpanzee culture. Their young, like ours, take many years to develop and mature. Oscar learns by mimicking others, and of course, trial and error. This trial and error leads to many comical and cute antics from Oscar. Chimpanzees possess the ability to process and adapt to their environment, even making tools to help gather and prepare food. They’re the McGuyver’s of the forest world.
Chimpanzees even use forethought in hunting smaller primates for food. The alpha directs other males to specific posts deeming them blockers or drivers. Blockers block any escape routes and the drivers drive the prey toward the hiding ambusher. The alpha is always the ambusher and gets first bite.
Grooming helps keep the hierarchy in place. The alpha will groom high ranking members, keeping them happy so they will help protect territory and not challenge the alpha. The young are groomed almost entirely by their mothers. Grooming is not just a social act; it also keeps fleas, ticks, and other parasites off the skin.
Oscar’s world is turned upside down, when a rival group tries to invade Freddie’s territory for food. His group becomes separated and Oscar is left to fend for himself. He cannot find his mom and no other group member will help him with food or grooming. You can definitely see Oscar’s sadness. It shows in his activity, eyes, and facial features. He is not the same boy from earlier.
But then something amazing happens and a foster parent takes over Oscar’s care. That he gets a foster parent isn’t that amazing. It’s who the parent is and how that relationship develops that has the audience cheering.
Chimpanzee is a wonderful look into the secluded life of these primates. There’s comedy, drama, suspense, joy, and the unexpected. Any gruesome hunting or fighting scenes are absent, making this a movie for the entire family. Since the movie follows the life of an actual chimpanzee & his group, there are some sad and scary moments that may upset young children. I would compare them to any classic Disney animation or the wicked witch from The Wizard of Oz. Those moments are brief and with Tim Allen narrating, nothing stays sad for long.
This movie was so surprising and uplifting. The behaviors captured and family bonds shown, makes this a movie for the big screen. The directors, Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield really paid attention to the forest details, showing the ecosystem as its own character. The cinematography alone is worth seeing this movie in IMAX.
Chimpanzee opens in theaters today