This delightful Disneynature documentary, narrated by Tim Allen and shot in the wilds of Africa’s Ivory Coast, is about the adorable antics of an infant chimpanzee named Oscar. Co-directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, the film chronicles the little fellow’s adjustment from an infant who is completely protected by his mother, but who overnight becomes an orphan due to circumstances beyond his control.
At the point of departure, we find 3-month-old Oscar living in the heart of the jungle where he’s surrounded by a tight-knit extended family of 35 chimpanzees. There, under the watchful eye of his mother, Isha, he plays with other youngsters while exploring the world around him.
Oscar is completely oblivious to all the surrounding threats to his existence, such as ferocious leopards and the rival group of chimpanzees located nearby that covets his clan’s grove of fertile nut trees. Defense of the clan’s turf is a collective affair that is directed by the alpha male, Freddie. The two clans skirmish intermittently but Oscar’s family generally gets the better of the exchange even though they are outnumbered.
Monkeys are a little lower than chimpanzees on the food chain and are the chimpanzees’ favorite meat to eat. One monkey provides enough food to feed the clan. Interestingly, the chimps have developed a complicated scheme to trap a monkey that calls for members of the hunting party to play different roles, such as stalkers, blockers, and ambushers, in order to trap their prey.
Oscar’s situation changes drastically when Isha disappears one day during a battle. When it looks like unprotected Oscar might soon succumb to a predator or the elements, Freddie, the alpha male of the clan, spontaneously adopts Oscar as his own.
This never before seen bonding prompts the observing primatologists to exclaim: “The loss of his mother could’ve meant the end. Instead it’s a new beginning.”
The film is a must-see for animal lovers and people who liked March of the Penguins and Winged Migration.
Excellent (****). Rated G. Running time: 78 minutes. Distributor: Disneynature.