DVD Review: Chimpanzee

Confession: I didn't watch this on DVD, I saw it on a plane. But I still had to pay to see it, so I think it counts. Chimpanzee is a documentary made by Disney Nature that follows two groups of chimpanzees, Freddy and Scar. Oscar and his mother belong to Freddy's group, and they have the better territory with better food options.  We get to see Oscar and other toddlers learning to do all kinds of things their parents can do - crushing nuts with stones, mashing fruits to get the nutrients.  This is really sweet, and a lot of it is amazingly well shot, beautifully captured footage. However, after a raid by Scar's group, Oscar and his mother are separated.  This is really sad, yes, but they thankfully don't show it, nor drag it out.  After Oscar is left alone, and fairly soon before he won't make it, Freddy kind of adopts Oscar.  The narrator explains that this is the first known case of an alpha male fostering a toddler.  Then we get to see Oscar and Freddy figure out how to make it work.

I loved this.  It's really short, only about 75 minutes, and doesn't waste any time. Tim Allen narrates the film, without using his "Tim Allen" or "Buzz Lightyear" voice (except once, but it's perfectly used). Yes, the film does a fair amount of making us see chimps as humans, but it's not a far stretch. It doesn't try to be a scientific portrayal of an endangered species, it is telling the story of an individual who gets to represent his species. Oscar is a perfect choice to tell this story. Based on wikipedia, this took 4 years to film, and I'm not surprised given how much amazing footage they have. It was filmed in a protected area in West Africa's Cote d'Ivoire and shows gorgeous rain forests and lots of amazing chimp behavior.  This was a terrific film and any kid would love watching it (provided they have a long enough attention span, so probably kindergarten before they'll follow along, but until they they'll love baby Oscar!)

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