A few weeks ago, I talked my 8 year-old niece into seeing “Chimpanzee“, again. She’d already seen it & even though the reviews were so-so, I felt it was my duty as the everyday primate to see Disney’s take on one of our closest cousins, Pan troglodytes.
Nikko, you were really a trouper to see this movie again! Thank you, sweetie. I can totally understand that you fell asleep about 2/3 of the way through. I stayed awake though, furiously writing notes about the too-human us vs. them story line which obliterated any enjoyment of seeing real chimps in their real African environment.
Because, sadly – in spite of Oscar, the cute baby chimp whose mother dies in the movie but who (apparently really, but unlikely in fact) ends up being taken under the wing by the ‘good guy’ alpha male – sadly, the reviewers were right.
Here’s my comment on the NY Times film review: “This movie was anthropomorphizing at its worst. The good guys (including mommies & orphans) win due to “teamwork” & the bad guys (“thugs”) lose because they’re into “brute force”?Chimpanzees are interesting enough without the “rival mob” narrative: here are some more words used [in the movie] to characterize the ‘other’ group & its interactions with ‘our’ group: gang, invasion, attack, pillage, enemy, & army. Are we gearing up for another war? What a disappointment.”
It could’ve been a great film. The real chimpanzees, the real drama of their lives (yes they do fight with & occasionally kill each other), the lovely shots of where they live… jeez Disney – you could’ve done a real service to our understanding of these close relatives of ours. I know you were trying – even showing our real animal cousins on the big screen is progress. But please, for next time, for the bonobo movie you’ve got to be planning (right?! – the one about our other cousins??), please feel free to call me during the test screening phase for an honest opinion.
I love to imagine the plot of “Bonobo” (uh oh – would it still be “G” rated??) …young Oscar is with his mommy, who happens to be the alpha female (and therefore leader) of the group; he’s enjoying playing with his cousins & older brothers, who will stay in the group & retain their status via their mother (who won’t be killed off in the movie by the ‘bad guys’ because there really aren’t any in bonobo society). When little Oscar greets his playmates, they engage in a little quick sex for a few seconds, then scamper up to swing around in the soft, light-filled trees. When a neighboring group ventures into their territory, drawn by the tempting, ripe fruit, they all have a little more sex for a few moments before sharing the bountiful harvest. Sure, there are a few minutes of tension & bipedal, scary posturing, but before long, everyone settles down & enjoys the feast, & the nap of sweet satiation afterward.
No doubt it would be called a chick flick. Works for me.
Thanks for your critique of the movie, Linda. Spot on, I say.
If you’ve not had a chance to read Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan’s 1992 “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors,” I will loan you my copy. Their book explores the earth before humans, then looks at our primordial ancestors. It then takes a fascinating look at our primate evolution and delves quite at length into the behavior of our closest cousins, both the chimpanzee and the bonobo…and others. As a biologist, of course, I observe and am fascinated by all life. As a human, I suppose I get to make my own value judgement between the diversity of primates. After reading this book, my immediate thought was that I sure was glad I am Homo sapiens.
to be able to appreciate the summer sunset…no doubt our cousins do as well, but it’s our blessing & curse, this heightened awareness…
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disney (in partnership with pixar) has redeemed itself with “inside out”. no villain! a girl who plays hockey! human primate emotions! the complications of life! keep it up, disney.