Review: Make a date with a ‘Chimpanzee’

Chimpanzee photo by Mark Linfield for Walt Disney.We love the natural world! That’s a statement of fact for millions around the world—and a statement of faith, as well. ReadTheSpirit provides lots of eco-friendly coverage, ranging from book reviews like this one to news coverage of Arbor Day to interviews with leading animal-friendly authors like Marc Bekoff. We also work with friends, including this overview of faith-based resources from the Humane Society of the US.

This weekend, families nationwide are buzzing about Disney’s latest feature film, Chimpanzee. Movie reviews by major newspapers and magazines are mixed. The Village Voice’s Benjamin Mercer is among the critics who praise the film: “Disneynature’s latest Earth Day release hunkers down in an Ivory Coast rain forest, taming its beasts-in-the-wild raw material into a family-friendly—though not totally sugarcoated—heroes-and-villains adventure, as did the brand’s previous film, African Cats.

Film critics who don’t like the movie have one complaint: They want their nature films to be documentaries without an explicit storyline. Variety’s Andrew Barker argues both points of view in a single paragraph: “From his groundbreaking work on the BBC’s Blue Planet and Planet Earth series, Alastair Fothergill has established himself as the foremost auteur of nature documentary filmmaking. Directing here with Mark Linfield, he turns his attention to the social structure of chimpanzees, with visually stunning, almost impossibly intimate results. Unfortunately, this footage is welded to a creakily executed story and narrated by a schticky, frequently bellowing Tim Allen, too often betraying the beauty of the imagery.”

So, what’s a moviegoer to do? What’s a nature-lover to do?
We turned to ReadTheSpirit resident expert Benjamin Pratt, who literally wrote the book on finding spiritual themes in one major genre of pop culture—the James Bond series. Benjamin and his wife went to see the film, not as parents, but as adult moviegoers looking for a good film. Here is what Benjamin concludes …

Why You Should Make a Date
with a ‘Chimpanzee’


Chimpanzee photo by Mark Linfield for Walt Disney.Chimpanzee is an excellent movie. It’s Good versus Evil! Everything Ian Fleming wrote, from his James Bond 007 tales to Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang focused on this theme.  Good versus Evil underlies our most basic lore and is once again central in a captivating tale released for the big screen. It is Scar and his rampaging thugs versus Freddy, the family patriarch and hero of Chimpanzee.

You will be thrilled with exquisite photography, magical music, enchanting time-exposure sequences, and penetrating jungle vistas. The evil Scar and his thugs will attempt to overwhelm Freddy’s family territory. But Good shall prevail over Evil!  Prepare to become attached very personally to a little guy named Oscar and his mother, Eesha, who lovingly nurtures her child until her death. Then, hold your heart! Your soul will be moved as the mightiest, Freddy, humbles himself to care for the weakest, Oscar!

It is a poignant and relevant parable for our troubled times.

A sincere word of appreciation to the men and women who spent four years filming this gem in the deepest jungles of Africa, to the Jane Goodall Institute, to Tim Allen who narrates, to Disneynature, the producer, directors and, of course, the cast of chimpanzees whom we hope shall thrive. 

Benjamin Pratt is the author of Ian Fleming’s Seven Deadlier Sins & 007’s Moral Compass, A Bible Study with James Bond. We also recently posted faith-and-film coverage of the remarkable new nature documentary Facing the Storm, Story of the American Bison. And, author Jane Wells just reported on Hunger Games from a spiritual perspective.

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Originally published at, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

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