Warning: This review includes spoilers to the plot. Proceed with caution
Admittedly, I wasn’t really sure what to expect before going into Disney Nature’s Chimpanzee. I knew that it was going to be a beautifully shot film, as Disney never holds back when it comes to the quality of their work. But I wasn’t sure if I was in for a strictly nature presentation, like Planet Earth, or more of a character driven piece involving animals, say a Happy Feet of sorts. What I ended up getting was a combination of the two, as Chimpanzee managed to intertwine amazing real life footage of nature, while also telling an amazing story that made me care deeply about an animal that spoke no words, Oscar.
Oscar is the core of the movie. When the tale starts, he is just three months old, and is constantly relying on his mother, Isha, to get him by. For most of the first thirty minutes, we are treated to a rarely seen candid view of the life of a group of chimps in the wild, as they struggle everyday for survival in a battle for food and territory with the always living, and always dangerous, jungle. Tim Allen is the narrator, finding ways to incorporate jokes into light hearted moments, while also raising the level of seriousness in the more dire parts.
Eventually, it is revealed that a clan of rival chimps, who are bigger and have more numbers, are looking to intrude on the land that Oscar and his troops have already staked claim to. Here we go: we have a villan. Of course this troop of evil chimps is led by the alpha male “Scar” (man where could they have come up with that name?). The first confrontation between these two groups occurs when Oscar’s troop tries to take food from a tree in Scar’s neighborhood. They are quickly scared off, and now its Scar’s turn to lead his troops into battle.
In between scenes of these chimps battling, we see amazing footage, from glow in the dark mushrooms, to a stop motion shot of sap growing on trees, and my favorite, a slow mo shot of rain hitting mushrooms that exploded with smoke when hit. Really interesting stuff. Finally, we reach the breaking point, when Scar and his fellow chimps use a thunder storm as cover, and attack Oscar and his gang. While most of them make it out alive, Oscar losses his mom in the battle.
Left alone, Oscar searches for his mom for days, before realizing that she has fallen victim to the dangerous jungle. Oscar is not old enough to fend for himself yet, and attempts to find closure in the other chimps in his colony. Unfortunately, he is met with universal disdain, as no one in the group has time to take care of Oscar. After trying with everyone else, Oscar moves to the Alpha Male: Freddy.
Freddy has one job: to lead his troop, and to keep them safe. He doesn’t have time for anything else. And yet, when Oscar approaches, Freddy does not immediately turn him away. Rather, Freddy shows a softer side, and pulls Oscar in. What ensues is one of the most touching things you will ever see in any film, let alone one with voiceless animals. Freddy takes Oscar in as one of his own, even going so far as to groom Oscar. Imagine, the highest chimp on the totem pole, grooming the one at the bottom.
As touching as this is, the movie cannot end here. Scar and his troops are still on the prowl, and they are ready for a final battle to stake claim over the land. This time, Freddy and his troops are ready, and a great battle takes place. Freddy and Scar go head to head, and this time, the good guys win. Freddy and Oscar are safe, as they have shown Scar and his oversized army who is boss of this land.
This isn’t your typical nature movie. It certainly has the jaw dropping elements of your Planet Earth‘s, but it also brings in an incredible human like aspect that I wasn’t expecting. You end up caring deeply for Oscar, and are happy in the end to see that after this battle, the entire group of chimps takes in Oscar as one of their own. I personally can’t wait for the sequel in 2040, when Oscar is all grown up, and he has taken Freddy’s place as the Alpha Male.