July 21, 2008

Movie Review: Space Chimps

Opening this kid targeted animated fare against the behemoth known as The Dark Knight, but it is a calculated gamble that 20th Century Fox was willing to take. With the extreme portion of the audience will be heading to see Batman, there is still a need for more family oriented fare, and this light hearted adventure would seem to be the perfect choice for families that have already plowed through Wall*E and Kung Fu Panda. Having already taken in the brilliance of The Dark Knight, and feeling the need to lighten the dark mood, the decision was made to give Space Chimps a shot at counterbalancing the cinematic experience. Unfortunately, Space Chimps failed to deliver the goods.

After sitting through the brief 81-minute feature, I was left flat. Sure, the film was innocent enough, but it failed to deliver anything even remotely compelling. Of course, anything coming so close to the wake of Wall*E is bound to pale by comparison, especially when it also has a science fiction bent.

I have to say that my first complaint about the movie would be in its advertising, at least what limited advertising I have seen. The movie has not received a lot of support from 20th Century Fox, and the trailer does not even touch on what the movie actually contains. The trailer plays up the chimps going into space aspect, but completely ignores the alien planet aspect, which actually takes up a lot of the story time. Unfortunately, anything of interest takes place with just the chimps with no aliens involved. As soon as we get aliens involved, my interest level plummeted, in addition to wondering why there was no mention of them in the advertisements.

Now, what is the film about? Well, the title gives the general idea that chimps and space will be involved, so if you guessed that, you'd be heading down the right track. The story has these chimps being sent into space where they are sucked through a wormhole. On the other side of said hole, they crash on an alien world where they become involved in a battle between a powerful dictator named Zartog and everyone else on the planet. I'm getting ahead of myself.

As we open, we are introduced to Ham III (Andy Samberg), grandson to Ham the first chimp sent into space (believe it or not, Ham was that chimp's name), a circus performer who specializes in being a furry cannonball. One evening, during a performance, Ham III has a moment where he realizes he is not living up to the legacy left by his family tree, still he loves the circus spotlight. Meanwhile, down in Florida, the space program is in trouble after a multi-billion dollar unmanned probe and an evil senator is looking to shut the program down.

Enter the chimps. There are a few chimps on hand at the NASA base, a reminder of years past. These chimps, Titan (Patrick Warburton), Luna (Cheryl Hines), and Comet, see an opportunity go an actual mission. So, to save the space program, the space nerds send Titan, Luna, and the recently recruited and inexperienced Ham III. They are sent to find the lost probe and discover what is on the other side of the wormhole.

So, off they go, into space, through the wormhole, and onto the alien planet. While this the drama on Earth was playing out, Zartog was fast using the crashed probe to enslave the planet. The chimps discover this and set about trying to make things right. Now if there was any question about how this is going to turn out, you haven't seen enough movies.

I guess one interesting way of looking at this film is to equate it with the current world situation. We send out a probe in the movie, which equals our invasion of Iraq, the result is a mess of a situation, with our well-meaning probe causing so much pain and distress to the natives of this alien world. Do you see where this is going? Then the chimps are our current forces that are attempting to give some sort of order. This is where the movie world and the real world diverge, the real world does not have a happy ending, at least not yet. This may be a stretch, but I had to do something to pass the time, right? And the less said about the character nicknamed Kilowatt (Kristen Chenoweth) the better.

When it comes right down to it, the movie is poorly animated, poorly written, and just plain dull. I could have overlooked the animation issues if the story was worth watching, good writing will trump that every time, but that is not the case here.

Bottomline. This is a pretty dull film; you would be better off going back to Wall*E or Kung Fu Panda. Space Chimps quickly became a shore to sit through. Even the kids at my screening seemed to grow tired of it pretty quickly. However, I will admit that Patrick Warburton (Titan) is worth seeing (or hearing) in anything he does.

Not Recommended.


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