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Oscar, a baby chimpanzee is enjoying his life with his mother in the jungles along the Ivory Coast. Without warning, young Oscar is tragically orphaned during an attack from a rival group of chimpanzees. Afterwards, he attempts to survive on his own, and to be accepted by the other chimps. But Oscar struggles, until he is surprising adopted by the Alpha Male of his group.
For more about Chimpanzee and the Chimpanzee Blu-ray release, see Chimpanzee Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on August 23, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Narrator: Tim Allen
Directors: Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield
» See full cast & crew
Chimpanzee Blu-ray Review
Freddy, meet Oscar. Oscar, meet Freddy...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, August 23, 2012
Chimpanzee is geared toward children, plain and simple. Parents will get a kick out of it, sure, but "serious" nature documentary aficionados will come away disappointed, criticizing the beautifully shot, pure-spirited family film for everything from its seemingly scripted story to its mildly anthropomorphized chimps and at-times hokey, kid-friendly narration. Along with Oceans, though -- Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud's visually arresting trip beneath the waves -- this is exactly the sort of documentary Disneynature has been promising from its inception. African Cats lured in the kiddies with a cute n' cuddly trailer (set to Vega4's "Life is Beautiful"), but the film itself, dutifully and rightfully bound to the cold, harsh realities of life and death in the Savannah, sent children under six scurrying for the theater exits. The documentary and its subject matter weren't the problem, of course; its ad campaign was just misleading. Disneynature decided it was best to avoid making the same mistake twice. Chimpanzee has its share of difficult scenes (a vicious tribe of rival chimps, a dying mother, an abandoned and rejected toddler), but parents needn't worry about disparities between the film and its trailer. It's educational enough to satisfy hands-on moms and dads, interesting enough to keep kids riveted, and entertaining enough to rack up repeat viewings.
When a gentle, loving tribe of chimpanzees -- led by proud, wizened alpha male Freddy -- is threatened by a rival group of chimps determined to lay claim to their fruit-and-nut-rich territory, it becomes clear that war is all but inevitable. If Freddy and his tribe continue to retreat, they'll risk starvation. If they stand and fight, the rival group's leader, Scar (an appropriately villainous name for a particularly aggressive Disneynature villain), may very well kill Freddy and those he's sworn to protect. But before the film's climactic clash comes to fruition, tragedy strikes. Isha, the mother of a young chimpanzee named Oscar, is injured in an attack and, ultimately, finished off by a leopard in the middle of the night. (All of which is discreetly portrayed, so as not to outright terrify any kids who are already huddled in their seats.) It seems Oscar is doomed. He hasn't learned to feed himself properly, he doesn't understand everything his mother would have taught him in time, and every member of his tribe rejects him... save one. In a stunning twist of fate, Freddy steps in and adopts little Oscar, saving him from a lonely, malnourished end. The only downside to Freddy and Oscar's unexpected relationship? Freddy is so busy with Oscar he neglects the borders of his territory, giving Scar and his gang the opening they've been waiting for.
Freddy and Scar aren't the only ones drawing lines. Narrator Tim Allen has come under quite a bit of undue critical fire, for what reason I'm not entirely sure. The moment Allen opened his mouth, my son shot up and exclaimed, "Buzz Lightyear!" So gripe and grumble all you'd like; Allen may lack the gravitas of Earth's James Earl Jones and Oceans' Pierce Brosnan, but he comes with Toy Story clout, delivers more natural narration than African Cats' Samuel L. Jackson, and is funnier than all the others combined. A boon considering Chimpanzee boasts more than a dash of comedy. Watching Oscar try to crack open a nut for the first time (and fourteenth time) is already amusing; Allen's running commentary will only rope in any family within earshot. Any family, that is, who isn't lording over the proceedings, scowling at every unnecessary joke or rolling their eyes at any misguided Toolman grunts. No, Allen isn't ideal, and yes, I'm sure the Disneynature producers could have found someone whose voice and improvisations were more acceptable to armchair critics, but, really, it's neither here nor there.
The real cause for concern is the line drawn between documentary and manufactured narrative. Where that line is, though, and how far-reaching it may be is a bit of a mystery. At least initially. As luck would have it, Chimpanzee's 40-minute behind-the-scenes documentary, "On Location," answers a number of burning questions and subsequently puts a number of fears to rest. Most everything that occurs on screen -- minus its habit of assigning blatantly human characteristics to the chimps -- actually happened as presented and, for the most part, the events occurred in chronological order as they appear. For as much as the film unfolds like a classic scripted Disney story, with heroes, villains and unlikely friendships forged through tragic circumstances, Chimpanzee is 90% documentary, 10% children's fable. (And 10% might be a touch high.) Allen's narration is the most glaring exception, as it makes some rather wild assertions about chimpanzee behavior kids will no doubt mistake for fact, but a little parental guidance and a family viewing of "On Location" will clear up most of the resulting confusion. If there's a bone to pick with Chimpanzee it's that it plays things a bit too fast and loose. But to prove that, you'd need to read minds. Chimp minds. Perhaps they share more in common with humans than "serious" nature documentary aficionados are ready to accept. Or perhaps not. That's both the magic of Chimpanzee and its fatal flaw. So enjoy it with your kids and on its own terms. You may end up shrugging your shoulders, but they won't be able to take their eyes off the screen.
Chimpanzee Blu-ray, Video Quality
To answer the obvious question: mild banding and minor shimmering. Mild, intermittent, almost negligible banding and exceedingly minor shimmering are all that separate Chimpanzee's gorgeous 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer from perfection, and they don't separate it by much. (The distance is so short I'm tempted to bump the film's video score to a 5.0 and call it a day.) Colors are rich and wondrous, lush jungle greens and earthy tree-bark browns are natural and lifelike, and black levels are deep and absorbing, without a hint of crush or troubled shadow delineation. (A few nighttime shots see a spike in noise, but nothing out of the ordinary or unexpected.) And detail? Detail is as striking as it is refined. Edges are clean and nicely defined, textures are crisp and convincing, grain is present but quite pleasant, and closeups are jaw-dropping, to the point I found myself scrambling to take in every inch of the image. The encode itself is proficient too, without any significant artifacting, aliasing or distracting anomaly that isn't inherited from the film's source. To go one step further, Chimpanzee's photography and high definition transfer might just be worth the price of admission alone.
Chimpanzee Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Freddy and Oscar's jungle home comes to life thanks to Chimpanzee's immersive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track; a lossless treat that captures the film's playfulness, tension and awe with seeming ease. Allen's narration is clear and distinct without ever hijacking the soundscape, and the chimps' chatter, bellows and battle cries are preserved to perfection. Rustling leaves, groaning branches, cracking nuts, pounding fists, and the loud clop clop of chimpanzee feet as they thump tree trunks surrounds the listener with an enveloping liveliness that ranges from subtle to engrossing to surprising. Directionality is precise, cross-channel pans are transparent, and separation is quite good. Moreover, LFE output lends weight and oomph where it's needed -- Scar's invasions are so aggressive they're almost bewildering -- and disarming dynamics round out the already impressive track.
Chimpanzee Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Chimpanzee Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Chimpanzee walks a fine line between unwavering documentary and fluffy, seemingly scripted Disney flick and, by and large, doesn't tip too far to either side. It's still strictly aimed at the kiddies, though, and any adults expecting anything more will probably want to look elsewhere. Be that as it may, Disney's AV presentation is outstanding thanks to a stunning video transfer and rousing DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Add to that a must-see 40-minute production documentary and you have yet another Disneynature release worth owning. So pick it up, pop some popcorn, and enjoy an evening of jungle-swinging fun and heartwarming chimpanzee antics with the whole family.
Chimpanzee: Other Editions
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Chimpanzee Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Chimpanzee Blu-ray - June 22, 2012
In August, Walt Disney Studios and Disneynature will bring Chimpanzee to Blu-ray. Narrated by Tim Allen (Toy Story), this documentary examines how chimpanzees live in the jungles along the Ivory Coast. Chimpanzee streets on August 21st.
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