Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Movie Review - Space Chimps (2008)

Since the sequel is out soon, I thought I'd post my review of the first Space Chimps movie here - which was much better than I thought it might be.

I wasn’t expecting too much from Space Chimps, but I was very pleasantly surprised by Vanguard Animation’s movie. Though the animation and images lacked the detail and sophistication of the bigger studios, they were vibrant and pretty decent quality throughout. Much of the dialogue was definitely written with adults in mind, and was sometimes very funny – it’s a shame really that I doubt if any adults who aren’t parents will consider watching this. There are several sci-fi references that will certainly have any skiffy fan chuckling – there are digs at Star Trek, Star Wars, and Armageddon along with a few others.

The main story revolves around a group of chimps who have been trained to get into space, but only manage to actually do this via the technological genius of Comet (voiced by Zach Shada). A probe investigating the outer reaches of the solar system encounters a wormhole, and a team must be sent to follow – but not humans, as it is too hazardous. The Senator (Stanley Tucci) agrees to using the chimps, but feels that there is something lacking from the trained astrochimps available to him. Therefore he recruits Ham III – grandson of the famous Ham (Andy Samberg), first chimp in space – to add some pizzazz to the proceedings. Ham III isn’t too thrilled with the idea however, preferring his life as star of the show at a circus.

Other characters include serious, Captain Kirk-like Titan (Patrick Warburton) and the ultra-professional Luna (Cheryl Hines), space chimps through and through, and Houston (Charles Alazraqui) who has guided Ham II throughout his life. There is also Dr Smothers (Kath Soucie), chimp trainer, and Drs Jagu (Omid Abtahi), Bob (Patrick Breen) and Poole (Jane Lynch). These last three are funny every time they come on screen. The voice acting is uniformly excellent, and the music (Chris P Bacon) is very good. The list of characters doesn’t end there actually – we are also introduced to the megalomaniac alien “Lord” Zartog (Jeff Daniels) and a small, big-headed alien called Kilowatt (Kristen Chenoweth) – well it’s Kilowatt for short, her real name is ridiculously long.

There is plenty here that young children will enjoy, though the frequent use of slapstick and pratfalls reduce its value for (most) adults, but a lot of the humour comes from the parody and dialogue. The film does tend to lag a bit in the middle section, where the romance between Ham III and Luna is developed in an all too familiar and predictable way, but it picks up again before the end. The competitive atmosphere that grows between Ham III and Titan doesn’t add much to the movie, but the latter’s predilection for awful chimp puns does (in fact you could say that it is chimpressive...) The plot is silly but rather enjoyable, and the alien race that this movie portrays is a lot of fun. The writing (Kirko De Micco and Rob Moreland) is good throughout, and the direction ensures a nice pace apart from the slight hiccough in the middle. Though he has written for various animated movies and co-produced 2005’s “Racing Stripes” (must get round to seeing that one someday), this was his directorial debut – and it certainly shows a lot of promise.

Overall Space Chimps wasn’t an amazing animated movie, but it was very enjoyable, particularly for science fiction fans. Though it’s not quite up to the likes of PIXAR / Dreamworks Fox [in terms of Ice Age - Fox released Space Chimps too) in the animation stakes, it doesn’t look bad and has a lot going for it. Recommended.

How to know if you’re a space chimp in four simple questions!

Titan: Are you in aluminium clothes?
Ham III: Yes.
Titan: Are you in a rocket?
Ham III: Yes
Titan: In outer space?
Ham III: Yes.
Titan: Are you David Bowie?
Ham III: Uh... no.

CaptainD - Movie Reviews Blog

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