Directed by Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield. Narrated by Tim Allen. (2012, G, 78 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., April 27, 2012
How to ruin a perfectly engrossing nature documentary in three easy steps: 1) Aggressively anthropomorphize the subject. 2) Hire Home Improvement's Tim Allen to narrate a simpering script. 3) Encourage Allen to revive his "Tool Time Tim" fixation with power tools and his signature grunt. By film's end, you'll wish they tossed Allen in the rainforest and left him for the leopards to snack on.
As with other Disneynature documentaries, Chimpanzee (coproduced with the Jane Goodall Institute) excels as a super-immersive, visually breath-catching entrée into a world little seen by humans. The stunning aerial photography, the time-lapse footage of nature alive and in flux, the macro lens on the chimpanzees' quotidian claw toward surviving and thriving, and a dramatic bonanza when an orphaned chimp is uncharacteristically adopted by the community's alpha male: great stuff, all of it, made cheap by a jokey narration that reeks of America's Funniest Home Videos and an editorial edict to frame these animals as hairier humans, assigning them heroes and villains and pop-song accompaniments edited to imply the chimpanzees are mugging for the camera. Don't be fooled: The humans are the only ones mugging here.