Since almost the day she was born, E. has had one nickname in our family — Monkey. She was one of those very clingy babies. If she wasn’t in my arms, she wasn’t happy. From day 1, she always reminded me of the monkeys we saw in Costa Rica who hung to their mommies’ necks and backs at all times, except when they were eating. That was my monkey.
Man, I wish I still had those boobs. But not joke, that’s pretty much the exact position E. and I stayed in for four weeks postpartum. I was so sore from my C-section and she cried bloody murder every time I tried to put her into a crib. So we spent our days in the La-Z-Boy chair — the world’s greatest invention.
Needless to say, though, I’ve had a soft spot for monkeys since having my own little primate. So, we’ve been eagerly looking forward to the latest movie from DisneyNature, “Chimpanzee.”
This past week, we were invited to attend a pre-opening screening of the movie. Sadly, I wasn’t invited to the world premiere with Dr. Jane Goodall (how rude!) but I still enjoyed getting an advance (and free) first look.
From the moment the movie started, I was blown away by the scenery. The movie is visually stunning.
I knew (in theory) that Africa has rainforests but I could not get over the similarities between the East African rainforest showcased in “Chimpanzee” and the massive rainforest in the southwestern corner of Costa Rica where DadJovi and I spent our honeymoon. From the mushrooms to the leaf-cutting ants to the aggressive tree-climbing roots and vines, it was like stepping back into our own trip. Super cool.
But these were the real stars of the show.
How glorious are they? And among those stars, there was one shining, adorable star — Oscar.
How much does he look like my own sleeping monkey above? I swear, I never expected a nature movie to make my uterus ache, but this one did. Watching the early scenes with Oscar and his mom, Isha, reminded me so much of E. when she was a baby, especially the way he ALWAYS wanted to be held and nursing.
When so much of the world (I’m looking at you, Facebook) is trying to confine breastfeeding to private rooms, I was so proud of Disney for showing how frequently Oscar nursed and how he kept his mother’s nipple in his mouth as often as possible, even as he played. It reminded me of the final days of E’s nursing in toddlerhood.
The movie certainly had its share of lighter moments, such as this scene where the baby monkeys were playing while the older ones were trying to nap (story of my life):
And E. was laughing hysterically when Oscar was learning to eat these fruits by mashing them up.
But the movie also included some intense, a bit scary and some sad scenes. It’s no secret that Oscar was orphaned during the filming of this movie. But they actually handled his mother’s death very tastefully and I don’t think they ever even used the “death” or “died” words. They made it clear that she wasn’t coming back, and when E. asked I told her that she’d died. Remember, my child is a bit obsessed with death anyway, so she knows all about it.
There are also some battle scenes between one group of chimps and our main group we’re following. It’s intense and the music gets powerful but it’s not too bad. But for E., the fact that this scene takes place during a loud thunderstorm actually made her a little bit more scared than I think she normally would have been. It never got to a point where I thought we needed to leave but she was in my lap for some of those scenes.
In fact, she spent a lot of the movie in my lap because she had so many questions. I don’t know if it’s because it wasn’t an animated movie but she actually had a lot of questions about which monkey was which, why they were doing what they were doing, and what was going to happen. She was pretty invested in Oscar’s fate, which I think is a good thing, but it certainly led to many more in-movie discussions than usual.
She also had a TON of questions about the time-lapse growth of fluorescent mushrooms, jungle vines, ants devouring leaves and a spider quickly weaving its web. How does one explain time-lapse photography to a 4-year-old, particularly in a hushed conversation in a theater? The answer? Not well.
SPOILER ALERT: I will say there was one scene that shocked us all. We learned that chimps hunt other monkeys for food! Again, it was handled very tastefully and there was no blood but it was pretty clear that the chimps were eating another monkey. Actually it was amazingly cool to watch their teamwork in action.
So, consider yourself warned. For whatever reason, that freaked DadJovi and me out much more than E. When I asked her about it afterwards, she just matter-of-factly replied, “The chimps were hungry. They had to eat.” Well, OK, then.
Another thing that really helped keep things light in the movie, even during the more intense scenes, was narrator Tim Allen. He was perfect. He even got to use a few Tooltime Tim huh-huh-huhs when the chimps are using stones and sticks as tools to open nuts.
Seriously, I don’t want to start a debate here, but I just can’t understand how people can watch these amazing creatures and not see all the similarities between us and them. It seems so clear that we’re very close cousins.
So, even if you don’t consider yourself a monkey lover like me, go see it if for no other reason than its amazing cinematography. I’m so impressed with the filmmakers and I’ve been reading everything I can find about the making of it.
After the movie, I asked E. what her favorite part was and her answer was, “Watching the mushrooms grows.” Well, OK, then again. In her defense, the mushrooms were pretty spectacular.
For me, I could watch Isha and her baby Oscar together for hours. I never knew I’d relate so much more to a chimpanzee mother than any other Disney character.
What’s your favorite animal? What’s your favorite nature movie?
DISCLOSURE: My family and I attended the screening for free. The photos and video clip above from Disneynature’s “Chimpanzee” were provided by Disney. I was not asked to blog about the movie, although I was glad to share my opinions. And as the saying goes, all opinions are 100 percent my own.