Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chimpanzee [2012]

MPAA (G)  CNS/USCCB (A-I)  Roger Moore (3 stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Moore's review -

Chimpanzee (directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, narrated by Tim Allen) is a child-oriented (Disney-Nature) documentary about a baby chimpanzee named "Oscar" by the film makers growing-up with his group of Chimpanzees in the wilds of the canopy  tropical rainforest in Africa.

Note to parents: Despite the documentary's relatively short length (78 minutes) and generally "child friendly" tone, it still may be too long for the attention spans of a lot of small children.  This is where zoos actually can be better than these kind of programs -- when the kids get bored of the "chimps" you can head over to the "polar bears" or "penguins." ;-), whereas here, you're pretty much committed to the 78 minutes ... ;-).

Having said that, the nature photography is beautiful.  A night time scene with the green phosphorescent mushrooms seemed almost straight out of Avatar [2009].  Viewers learn a little about Chimpanzee social structure: The group into which Oscar was born was headed by an Alpha-Chimp that the film-makers named "Freddie."  He had some younger male chimps that would one day become his rivals.  And there were a number of females with their young (including Oscar, the youngest) making-up the rest of the clan.  The clan's territory was centered around a grove of nut trees which the chimps were shown routinely breaking with stones (tool use).  Sometimes though, they would venture in other directions for for food, like to a group of tropical fruit/berry trees, but those appeared part of neighboring group of chimpanzees' territory (a group led by a chimp that the film-makers called "Scar").

So there would be occasional battles between these two groups of chimps over control of these two groves of trees -- the nut trees that seemed to be in the center of Freddie/Oscars group's territory and the fruit/berry trees that seemed to be at minimum in disputed territory or in the territory of Scar's group of chimps.  As a result of one of these battles between the two groups of chimps, Oscar's mother is wounded (and is presumably finished-off later by some other ever-opportunistic animals like leopards).  Who would take care of Oscar now?  Well a surprising "foster parent chimp"steps-up to do the job providing an example of altruism that researchers have come to note with regards to the behavior of chimps.

All in all, it seemed to be a very enjoyable documentary, though perhaps more for the parents than for really young kids. 


I'd also add, that this kind of research, in the wild, in the natural habitat of chimpanzees is probably preferable to the kind done in cages / laboratories at universities other research centers.  One thinks of the documentary released last year named Project Nim [2011] about a chimpanzee raised among humans and taught how to communicate with humans using sign language.  All seemed fine until Nim started approaching maturity (4 years of age) and became simply too strong to be casually around humans.  What to do then with a chimp too strong to be around us and yet not really knowing how to relate to other chimps much less survive in the wild?  The research done simply observing chimps (and other animals) in their natural habitat seems like a better way to go at least with regards to the chimps / other animals themselves.

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1 comment:

  1. I didn't think that this was anything amazing to see or but it still fascinated me by how much these chimps were so much like us in many, many ways. I also thought that Allen's narration made this film a lot more bubbly and happy too. Good review Dennis.