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'Chimpanzee' movie review, trailer: Good message outweighs fair cinematography

The most recent "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" imagined a holocaust coming not from human politics via nuclear armageddon, but from the growing consciousness of these primate victims of medical experimentation. There may seem to be an inexhaustible supply of them for our little games, but one factual point that "Chimpanzee" does make is that the common chimpanzee is now uncommon in the wild, where its numbers have plunged to 200,000 from 1 million in the past 20 years.chimpanzeeScreenShot_042812_opt

Côte d'Ivoire's Taï National Park, where much of "Chimpanzee" was filmed, represents the last extensive stand of primary rainforest in west Africa. The region's previous human inhabitants lived lightly on the land. But wars in Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia have sent refugees streaming into the area. Explosive and heedless human population growth has ravaged the chimpanzees' traditional habitat.

One thing Disney is doing through "Chimpanzee" is donating 20 cents from every ticket sold through May 3 to the Jane Goodall Institute to help protect chimpanzees and their habitats. Information is available here.

In four decades of research, Goodall has essentially established our understanding of chimpanzees. Some of the findings have been uncomfortable. Her own early belief in their gentle, peaceful natures have given way to a more realistic understanding of creatures that more closely resemble our own mix of empathy and cruelty, altruism and violence.

One of the more interesting events that a film crew caught involved an adult female chimp and her grown daughter, who seemed on bad terms with the rest of their troupe because of erratic behavior. After another chimp, one with a younger daughter, gave birth again, the two unstable chimps began assaulting her, attempting to grab the infant.

Her young daughter ran over to the research crew, chattering wildly, pointing at the attack, jumping up and down. She ran back toward her mother, then stopped when she realized the humans were not following her. She again rushed to them, gesturing and crying, while they commented about how interesting that was. Eventually, the two unstable chimps succeeded in taking and killing the infant. The sad little chimp turned from the humans and trudged back to comfort her mother.

Of course, no non-suicidal human should ever confront an adult chimpanzee without weapons. On the other hand, at least one wild chimpanzee knows the effectiveness of trying to communicate with humans.

Joe Tyrrell may be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or followed on Twitter @ jtyrrell87

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