September 28, 2008

Monkey Business in Space

By CROOT, James

SPACE CHIMPS (G) Directed by Kirk De Micco * * 1/2 Reviewed by James Croot -------------------- Ham III (Andy Samberg) has a lot to live up to. The grandson of the first chimpanzee astronaut, he has "space in his veins and between his ears". With the simian space programme all but a distant memory, Ham is a showboating circus performer, only cheating death thanks to watchful eye of his grandad's co-pilot Houston (Carlos Alazraqui). However, when a $5 billion NASA probe disappears into an intergalactic wormhole, considered too dangerous for humans to travel through, they begin looking for apes with the right stuff. But career chimps Luna (Cheryl Hines) and Titan (Patrick Warburton) aren't so keen on their new, irresponsible, dangerous and undisciplined crewmate coming along for the ride.

Despite Chimps boasting plenty of monkeyshines and animated action, parents are likely to enjoy this film more than their kids. Strangely, virtually all the jokes have been pitched at Generation X, including references to Ziggy Stardust, Tremors, and Axel F.

So while the gag quotient is high, most of it will be over the heads of what appears to be the film's target audience. "Why wasn't I born a rabbit or an Art History major; no- one expects great things from them," opines one character.

Writer-director De Micco and co-writer Robert Moreland do have a nice handle on deadpan humour: "We're nothing more than guinea pigs!", "Actually, they're on the Mars mission."

But there's also a bizarre undercurrent of what is essentially sexual harassment by Ham of Luna which seems wildly inappropriate in a film for kids.

Animation is solid rather than spectacular, while the vocal cast includes the ubiquitous Warburton (Bee Movie, The Emperor's New Groove), Curb Your Enthusiasm's Hines and virtually unrecognisable turns from Stanley Tucci and Jeff Daniels.


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