Too often a movie is released with bad timing. For example, it was good timing for Kung Fu Panda to be released prior to WALL*E being released this summer. It gave kids plenty of time to see the movie, buy the toys, get the Happy Meals at McDonald’s and then get bored with it. Enter WALL*E, rinse and repeat. But after WALL*E and all of its glory, kids didn’t get another mind-blowing blockbuster. Instead, they got Space Chimps. Bad timing. But honestly, and stay with me now, it’s not such a bad movie.
Ham III (voiced by Andy Samberg) is a circus monkey whose grandfather was one of the first chimps in space back in the ’50s. He’s naturally rebellious and thinks he’s a screw up compared to the successes in his family. When a space probe is lost through a wormhole, NASA wants to send a space ship through it to see if it could become passable by humans. Instead of sending humans and possibly obliterating them, they decide to send the chimps and Ham III is recruited unwillingly. He is sent up with two NASA trained chimps Luna (Cheryl Hines) and Titan (Patrick Warburton). The chimps pass through the wormhole unscathed, but find themselves on a planet full of colorful creatures who are in danger of being turned to statues by an evil lord named Zartog (Jeff Daniels). They now have to save the planet and manage to get back home to their own.
Yes the plot is ridiculous, yes the animation isn’t all that great; but the movie still works. The biggest relief for me was that this wasn’t one of those Dreamworks-style animated films overloaded with pop culture references and adult humor. I’m a sucker for cheesy, old-fashioned humor and this one is full of it. Titan, for example, is almost painfully optimistic throughout the whole movie, but what makes him more bearable is his humor. I love all the goofy “chimp” jokes he tells. They’re just silly little plays on words, but I’d rather hear that than Shrek sequel style humor. And that’s just one example. This movie had me and my six year old daughter laughing throughout.
The voice cast also really helps the movie out. This is one of those cases where it seems like they didn’t just cast these roles because of the big names, but because they really fit with the characters. Andy Samberg and Cheryl Hines were perfect for these roles. Kristin Chenoweth has a fun, small role as a quirky little alien named Kilowatt. Jeff Daniels played the big bad guy Zartog, and you can tell he had a really good time doing this movie. Stanley Tucci has a role as Dr. Poole, one of the scientists, but his role was pretty much a throwaway role. The story back on Earth with the NASA scientists is not nearly as interesting as what’s going on in space. Jane Lynch (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Role Models) shows up as one of the scientists as well. Again, this is pretty much a waste of the talent, but it’s fun to hear her anyway.
One of the biggest selling points for me? The run time. This movie clocks in at 81 minutes. That’s just over an hour! It packs in action, humor and lots of colorful characters to keep the kids interested. Any longer and it would have really hurt the movie.
Let me emphasize one thing: this is a funny and entertaining movie for both kids and adults, but it is not groundbreaking, it’s not going to win any awards. I mean heck, it will probably be forgotten completely by the end of the year. At the very least, it’s worth a rental and a watch with your kids on a Friday night. Just don’t go expecting anything of WALL*E caliber and you’ll find yourself having a good time.
The animation quality might not be up to the high standard set by Pixar, but the colors and the visual quality are outstanding in 2.35:1. The audio is loud and exciting and exceptionally clear.
Fox Movie Channel Presents: Casting Session – A 9 minute long featurette featuring the voice actors and crew.
An option for a trivia track
5 TV spots for the movie
Trailers: Horton Hears a Who, Dr. Doolittle: Tail to the Chief (why another one was necessary, I don’t know), and Garfield: Pet Force
It might sound a bit obvious to say that Space Chimps won’t stand up to Kung Fu Panda or Wall*E, or that if you have lowered expectations, you’ll enjoy it more. But that’s really what you need to keep in mind with this one. With the holidays coming up, you’re probably going to be fishing for family friendly movies to watch. This one is a good bet.
20th Century Fox presents Space Chimps. Directed by Kirk De Micco. Starring Adam Sandberg, Cheryl Hines, Patrick Warburton, Jeff Daniels, Kristin Chenoweth, Stanley Tucci, Jane Lynch, Kenan Thompson. Written by Kirk De Micco, Robert Moreland. Running time: 81 minutes. Rated G. Released on DVD: November 25, 2008. Available at Amazon.
Tags: Jeff Daniels