Chimpanzee (3 stars)


Disney's latest nature documentary will keep young animal enthusiasts happy

This kid-friendly documentary has all the elements you would expect given its Disneynature origins: excellent production values (many of the crew are veterans of the BBC’s natural history documentaries), slick filmmaking and a generally wholesome approach that smooths the natural world’s rougher edges for the benefit of the young target audience.

The film follows a group of chimpanzees on the hunt for food and shelter deep in the rainforest, focusing on a baby chimp’s struggle for survival in the midst of the group’s constant moving and an ever-present threat from a rival chimp pack. Snappily-paced and pleasingly short, Chimpanzee should keep young animal enthusiasts happy, although it lacks the compelling drive of the similarly-pitched March of the Penguins.

Adults may initially have problems with the film’s cloying narration from Tim Allen, particularly the way the chimps are referred to with cute character names from the outset – the baby is Oscar, leader of the pack is Freddy and the ‘evil’ rival chimp is, you guessed it, Scar – creating an awkward suspicion that this is more constructed drama than documentary. But this is really just the kind of real-world storytelling adults do with their kids all the time, and Allen turns out to be a good fit, particularly when his narration draws out the humour in situations; an extended sequence of chimps attempting to find the ‘right tool’ to crack nuts open being a very funny example, not least in its acknowledgement of Allen’s role as Tim ‘the tool man’ Taylor in TV's Home Improvement.

But the film’s highlights are the moments of pure observation, when the camera captures a fascinating detail of the animals’ behaviour. Scenes of chimps bending and weaving tree-branches to create makeshift beds, or the touching moments of Oscar’s first attempt to climb a tree unaided will provoke wonder and fascination in adults and children alike.

General release from Fri 3 May.

'Chimpanzee' Trailer HD


  • 3 stars
  • 2012
  • Tanzania / USA
  • 1h 18min
  • E
  • Directed by: Alastair Fothergill/Mark Linfield
  • Cast: Voice of Tim Allen
  • UK release: 3 May 2013

Kid-friendly documentary about a baby chimp's struggle for survival. The generally wholesome approach (cute character names for the animals, etc.) is to be expected, but Tim Allen is a funny narrator and the film excels in moments of pure observation, provoking wonder in adults and children alike.