Space Chimps

Space Chimps

*

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

I went to see the press screening of this film on NASA's 50th birthday. A day to be proud of, when we look at everything that space research has brought us - a lot more than most people realise. But before NASA, before the days when men walked on the moon, there were other astronauts. These brave individuals paved the way for human exploration. They were chimpanzees. The most famous of these was Ham, the first hominid in space, and this film tells the story of his fictional grandson, Ham the Third.

The younger Ham has difficulty living in the shadow of his famous ancestor (perhaps unsurprising, given how badly animated the shadows in this film are), so he's doing his best to waste his life as a circus star - until, that is, NASA discover a wormhole and decide they need a hero to test it. Not too important a hero, of course. Ham is joined by earnest chimps who don't understand that they're just there as test subjects, playing second fiddle to humans. But before they even set off on their epic journey, the planet where they are destined to arrive has been transformed by an earlier Earth probe. The biggest and meanest of the aliens there is using it to terrorise the others into building him... a casino. Because he's seen a couple of pictures of Earth. So now our heroes will have to defeat him. Cue plot card three... oh, wait, did we run out already?

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There are the bones of a story within Space Chimps, but that's all. Nobody seems to have cared enough to flesh them out. It's got cute animals, space travel, aliens, some running about and a spot of romance, so it'll be a hit, right?

Listing the things which are wrong with this film would take more space than Eye For Film allows, so let's just start with the basics. The direction is largely absent, or else it was determined by rolling dice. The editing is atrocious, cutting away far too fast at important moments. The acting is lazy (Jeff Daniels may have a theatre to support but he should be ashamed of himself for resorting to such desperate measures). The writing is just unfinished - lame jokes feel like placeholders which were left in by accident, whilst threats and emotive exchanges are halfhearted at best. The animation is shoddy. Characters are hopelessly one-dimensional. And you know, once upon a time, films of this sort aimed to inspire children to take an interest in space, in science, in the world around them. This one tries to make a virtue of laughing at educated people. Where it might have introduced exciting real world concepts, it drowns in lame technobabble. Its scientists are presented as hopeless losers, from the comedy fat guy to the ethnic stereotype. This failure to respect logic applies equally to its own construction - it has more holes than plot.

Also, it's boring.

This is film-making by numbers. Children deserve better. Children could DO better. Don't waste their time with this film this summer - they'd probably have more fun doing homework.

Reviewed on: 30 Jul 2008
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A group of chimps travel through a wormhole to another world.
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Caro Ness **

Director: Kirk De Micco

Writer: Kirk De Micco, Robert Moreland

Starring: Andy Samberg, Cheryl Hines, Jeff Daniels, Patrick Warburton, Kristin Chenoweth, Carlos Alazraqui, Zack Shada

Year: 2008

Runtime: 81 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US

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