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Featured Blu-ray Review: Chimpanzee

August 19th, 2012

Chimpanzee - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray Combo Pack

Chimpanzee is the fourth DisneyNature Documentary to get a theatrical release. I've been lucky enough to see previous ones, and even the one that went direct-to-DVD. So how does this one compare to the others? And is the Blu-ray worth picking up?

The Movie

Chimpanzee begins with our narrator introducing us to the world of an African rain forest where a baby chimpanzee, Oscar was just born. We also meet his mother, Isha, as well as Freddy, the alpha male of the troop of chimpanzees he was born into. As we watch, we see Oscar learn about how to be a Chimpanzee and how to fit in in Chimpanzee society. Climbing trees, gathering fruits and nuts to eat, getting ants out of logs. One day, while getting fruit far away from home, the troop has to travel into the territory controlled by a rival troop of Chimpanzees led by an alpha male called Scar. They are chased out of Scar's territory, but that is not the end of the conflict. Scar is looking to take over Freddy's territory, and the nut trees that offer so much food.

That's pretty much it for the plot. It does have a much more developed plot than earth or Oceans had, but this is not entirely a good thing. Tim Allen is fun as the narrator and through him we get to hear what the chimpanzees are thinking, or to be accurate, what the writers are imagining what the chimpanzees are thinking. I do believe there is enough evidence that chimpanzees can think in a nearly human way. They can use tools they find in the environment like rocks to break into nuts, they can even make simple tools from twigs. They live in rather complicated social groups, which is strong evidence of higher brain functions. That said, the film still anthropomorphises the characters a little too much for my liking. It makes the film seem aimed at a younger audience instead of aimed at adults. Fortunately, they don't shy away from the scarier parts of reality, which would sugarcoat it too much. This does mean that there are some parts of the film that might be too intense for younger kids.

I would rate this film above African Cats, but below Oceans.

The Extras

On Location: The Making of Chimpanzee, which is a seven-part, nearly 40-minute long making of featurette. Watching Camp Invaders made me happy to live in a city. The spiders and scorpions don't bother me. I actually like scorpions, the way proper scorpions look and move. (Whip scorpions are ugly.) But the idea of having insect larva burrow under my skin. I would react to that by wanting to napalm the entire rain forest. Admittedly, that would be an overreaction. See Chimpanzee, Save Chimpanzees, Disney's Conservation Legacy, and Disney's Friends for Change are short bits about DisneyNature's efforts to help protect chimpanzees in the wild and promos for what the audience can do to help. Finally, there is a music video for "Rise" by McClain Sister and a very short behind-the-scenes featurette about that music video.

As for the film's technical presentation on Blu-ray... I don't know what it is about nature that looks so good in high definition, but this Blu-ray is nothing short of reference level material. If you see a flaw in this film's transfer, it's probably a problem with your TV and not the fault of the Blu-ray. The level of details is stunning, while the colors are perfect. There is literally nothing wrong with how this film looks. The audio is nearly as good. The narration is always perfectly clear and at the right sound level compared to the background noises. The are a lot of ambient sounds, good directional effects, etc. It can't compare to a modern Hollywood blockbuster, because nature generally doesn't have the same sound design budget, unlike the video, which is as good as any $200 million film looks.

The film is only coming out on a Blu-ray Combo Pack, although there are two different packages you can get. Both cost $23, which is a good deal, but not a fantastic deal.

The Verdict

If you are a fan of DisneyNature's previous releases, then Chimpanzee is absolutely a must have. Even if you are generally not a fan of nature documentaries, this one is worth checking out. The Blu-ray Combo Pack doesn't have a lot of extras, but the making of featurette has strong enough replay value that I'm willing to let it slide.

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Filed under: Video Review, Chimpanzee