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Overall Rating
2.94

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look41.18%
Average: 17.65%
Pretty Bad: 35.29%
Total Crap: 5.88%

2 reviews, 5 user ratings


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Space Chimps
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Hail To The Chimp!"
4 stars

For the most part, I have grown increasingly weary over the last couple of years with animated movies that have nothing to offer viewers outside of silly premises that are pretty much summed up in their titles, a sense of humor that is based almost entirely in silly slapstick and pop-culture references that were dated even before they popped up on the screen and the presence of well-known stars who have been cast less for their vocal talents than for their ability to get themselves invited onto all the big talk shows in order to hype the film. On the surface, “Space Chimps” appears to be the very epitome of the type of film that I have been railing about for a while and in many ways, that is exactly what it is. However, there is one thing that separates it from the likes of “Shark Tale” or “Ice Age” (besides the expected box-office haul) --the simple and unavoidable fact that it is actually kind of funny and entertaining despite the fact that it looks and sounds as though it is anything but that.

When an unmanned space probe is sucked into a wormhole and re-emerges on the far side of space on a heretofore unknown planet, a power-hungry senator (Stanley Tucci) implores America’s space agency (which, now that you mention it, is never once specifically referred to as NASA as far as I can recall) to immediately launch a manned mission to explore this strange new world. Alas, that old pioneer spirit that fueled the original space flights seems to have disappeared and the eggheads in charge determine that the potential risks to human astronauts are far too great. Instead, they decide to send up a trio of chimpanzees that they happen to have around to recreate the early days of the program for tour groups. However, while the three--stern leader Titan (Patrick Warburton), the level-headed lieutenant Luna (Cheryl Hines) and young scientific whiz Comet (Zach Shada)--are competent and capable, they lack a certain pizzazz from a PR perspective and the senator demands the inclusion of a more marketable monkey to get people interested. To this end, the scientists forcibly recruit Ham III (Andy Samberg), the grandson of the original space chimp who is now eking out a living doing a silly circus cannonball act that trades on his famous name (imagine the character that Samberg played in “Hot Rod,” albeit with a minor revolutionary leap), to replace Comet on the mission. Ham is, of course, a lazy and self-centered slacker chimp and only wants to go back to his circus gig but after a few training screw-ups, he wakes up to find himself being launched into outer space with Luna and Titan.

I won’t trouble you too heavily with the details of what transpires from this point on--suffice it to say, they land on the planet and discover that the original probe has fallen into the hands of the fearsome Zartog (Jeff Daniels), who is now using it to terrify and enslave the populace, Ham and Luna undergo a long and strange quest to find the probe and the now-kidnapped Titan and Ham must learn to stop thinking only about himself and become a team player just in time to save the day. Instead, I would just as soon point you in the direction of the attributes that I think will last longer in the minds of anyone who sees this film than the rudiments of the plot, which pretty much evaporate from memory almost immediately. For starters, the voice casting is better than it had to be--although I can’t say that Samberg is exactly my cup of tea, he is less grating here than usual and is aided immeasurably by the inimitable Warburton, who essays yet another hilariously thick-headed dope in such a way that the joke refuses to get old, and the surprisingly effective Daniels, whose voice I didn’t even recognize until the end credits. While the visual style doesn’t exactly break any new ground, it has a bright and clean look to it that is also appealing in a low-key manner. Most of all, I appreciated the weirdo jokes that come in from out of nowhere and sort of blindside you. Some of them are references to specific sci-fi classics (beyond the obvious homages to “The Right Stuff” and “2001,” we also hear reference to the Primate Directive and the deathless line of dialogue “If you swallow me, I will only grow more powerful”), some goofs on more general genre conventions (such as the observation that all distant planets in science-fiction seem to have either three suns or three moons) and gags that defy any rational explanation, such as the revealing visit to the Dark Cloud of Id or the moment when Ham looks out the window after the crash-landing and regards the arid landscape with a weary “Oh great, we landed in Barstow.”

I am not going to sit here and tell you that “Space Chimps” is a great work of cinema that will last on long after you and I have shuffled off this mortal coil. Quite frankly, I can’t imagine any circumstance in which I might be seeing it again at any point in my future. However, if you are a parent looking for a film suitable for kids who are too young for “The Dark Knight,” too smart for “Mama Mia!” and who have already seen “WALL*E” multiple times, this one will do quite nicely. Besides, to paraphrase what one of the scientist eggheads remarks at one point, there are few sights in the world more awe-inspiring than watching monkeys on a treadmill.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=17082&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/18/08 14:00:00
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User Comments

3/14/16 Charles Tatum A watchable mess 3 stars
11/27/08 Rachel Rigodon Good kid movie 3 stars
9/03/08 Shaun Wallner Great Kids Film! 4 stars
7/30/08 zenny OMG, MAKE IT STOP!!! 1 stars
7/21/08 PAUL SHORTT MONKEY BUSINESS HAS RARELY BEEN SO AMUSING 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  18-Jul-2008 (G)
  DVD: 05-Oct-2010

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A
  DVD: 25-Nov-2008




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