2012, G, 78 min. Directed by Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield. Narrated by Tim Allen.

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.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Alastair Fothergill Films
Chilly nature documentary has a cuddly heart that's perfect for young animal lovers

Marjorie Baumgarten, April 19, 2019

Monkey Kingdom
Disneynature doc profiles Sri Lanka's famed Temple Troop of toque macaques

Marc Savlov, April 24, 2015

More by Kimberley Jones
We Have an Issue: The Gift Guide Issue
We Have an Issue: The Gift Guide Issue
On supporting local businesses and surviving a challenging holiday season

Dec. 4, 2020

We Have an Issue: Giving Thanks
We Have an Issue: Giving Thanks
In this week’s issue, we celebrate 20 in 2020 working to make Austin a better, more equitable, more compassionate place

Nov. 27, 2020


Chimpanzee, Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle