Film Review by Kam Williams
Orphaned Chimp Adopted by Alpha Ape in Disneynature Documentary
This delightful Disneynature documentary, narrated by Tim Allen and shot in the wilds of Africa’s Ivory Coast, revolves around the adorable antics of a big-eared, infant chimp named Oscar. Co-directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, the film chronicles the little fellow’s evolution from an overprotected momma’s boy into a toddler suddenly forced into survival mode by circumstances beyond his control.
At the point of departure, we find 3 month-old Oscar living in the heart of the jungle where he’s surrounded by a tight-knit, extended family of 35 chimpanzees. There, under the watchful eye of his doting mother, Isha, he plays with other youngsters while tentatively exploring the wondrous new world around him.
Oscar is totally oblivious of all the surrounding threats to his existence, like ferocious leopards and the rival tribe located nearby which covets his clan’s bountiful grove of fertile nut trees. Defense of their turf proves to be a collective affair orchestrated by their fearless leader, Freddie. Like the Hatfields and McCoys, these sworn enemies skirmish intermittently with Oscar’s clan generally getting the better of the exchange, despite being badly outnumbered.
A little lower on the food chain are monkeys, the chimpanzees’ favorite meat to eat, since all it takes is just one of them to make a mouth-watering meal that’ll feed three dozen. But first, a critter must be caught via a complicated method which calls for members of the hunting party to play the roles of stalkers, blockers and ambushers in order to ensnare their prey.
The picture’s plot thickens the day that Isha disappears during a battle, never to be seen again. And when it looks like her suddenly-orphaned son might soon succumb to a predator or the elements, alpha male Freddie inexplicably rises to the occasion, spontaneously displaying maternal instincts he had never previously exhibited.
The impromptu bonding prompts the observing primatologists to wax poetic: “The loss of his mother could’ve meant the end. Instead it’s a new beginning.” Must-see family fare for animal lovers and suckers for visually-captivating wildlife adventures like March of the Penguins and Winged Migration.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 78 minutes
Wednesday, April 18, 2012