Space Chimps

Director    Kirk De Micco
Starring    Andy Samberg, Cheryl Hines, Patrick Warburton, Jeff Daniels, Kenan Thompson
Release    18 JUL (US) 1 AUG (UK)    Certificate U
2 stars


9th August 2008

In a computer-animated world where Pixar and Dreamworks are Kings, it can be tough for little guys like Vanguard Animation to get much of a look in. With the likes of WALL·E and Kung Fu Panda dominating the box office and holding parents to ransom over the school holidays, this cheap and charmless little film about monkeys in space struggles to get into orbit.

After NASA loses a $5 billion probe in an intergalactic wormhole, they decide to send Ham III (Samberg) - the grandson of the first chimp into space - to retrieve it. However, Ham - a circus entertainer whose speciality is being fired from a cannon - has no real interest in living up to his family's traditions. But after a pep talk from his monkey mentor, Ham embarks on a deep space mission in search of the missing probe, accompanied by two experienced chimpronauts: flat-topped Titan (Patrick Warburton of The Tick and Family Guy fame) and love interest Luna (Curb Your Enthusiasm's Cheryl Hines).

There should be no mistaking Space Chimps for anything other than a summer holiday kid-pleaser: adult audiences are rarely acknowledged or catered for. The animation is of poor quality throughout - is lazy CG animation like this really a step forward from traditional hand-drawn methods? - and the plot won't interest anyone over the age of 11 that happens to be paying attention. There's little of educational value to be found for the youngsters - amazingly, space travel feels neither exciting or interesting - and there are a fair few plot grumbles to pick up on; why would the two experienced chimps pass out on re-entry but the newbie remains fully awake to man (or chimp?) the controls? It matters not: the kids have already been sold on the concept (monkeys in space!) and bums are already on seats. So who cares?

The same lack of effort applies to the characters: our three monkey space travellers are nowhere near as likeable as, say, WALL·E. Luna adds nothing except a female voice to the cast, Titan is just a simian version of Quahog's favourite wheelchair-bound cop and you'll quickly tire of Ham's sheer arrogance. Instead of a hero, he's actually a total douche - you'll flat out hate him by the end of the movie.

Unlike the finer works of Pixar, Space Chimps can't really offer anything to audiences of a certain age. It's a simple, predicable story with a few pop culture hits (the Airplane reference was much appreciated) and plenty of child-friendly gags. But in an age where computer-generated animations have to either have cross-generational appeal or an A-list voice cast to succeed, films like Space Chimps are likely to get left behind. Yes, the kids will enjoy it and maybe it's passable entertainment on a rainy August afternoon. But modern animation needs to offer so much more these days - more, you suspect, than Vanguard Animation are currently capable of. Rob

More:  Family  Animation
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