The main characters of Space Chimps repeatedly inform us that humans and chimps are 99% identical, and it’s the mere 1% difference that puts humans in charge of things. Of course, this statistic is about as outdated as the craftsmanship displayed within Space Chimps itself, which reflects the sort of laziness inspired by the realization that one can never possibly match up to its summer competitors. So, the filmmakers have cobbled together the most substandard product possible to barely pass muster, but, since ticket prices are the same for a great or a poor children’s film, audiences should feel cheated as a result. Of course, it’s easy to dismiss any skepticism of Space Chimps as a result of heightened expectations in the aftermath of this summer’s WALL-E and Kung-Fu Panda. Sure, both of these animated films reaped the benefit of big-budget stars and spectacular animation, but this still presents absolutely no excuse when it comes to the complete lack of wit and, well, actual plot, at work within Space Chimps. Admittedly, this outing by Vanguard Animation is slightly better than its past efforts — Happily N’Ever, Valiant — but that’s not much of a compliment, considering that the animation curve is moving far too fast for such slight progress to matter in the grand scope of CGI things.
Those who have yet to recognize the appeal of Pixar or DreamWorks Animation’s killer CGI will definitely understand the difference after witnessing Space Chimps, a flat, uninspired, and completely lifeless work that somehow manages to retain a colorless pallor despite the DayGlo shades from which its animators drew. The similarly inert script begrudgingly performs a few obligatory nods to the sci-fi genre in general, but, oddly, no allusions whatsoever are made towards Planet of the Apes. Altogether, this film’s plot is nonexistent, delivering only false labor instead of a climax, and this piece of crap shouldn’t have even made it onto Saturday morning television, let alone a theater.
Space Chimps has basically the same setup as Kung Fu Panda — the anthropomorphized mammal who, despite being a complete slacker with no real ambition, manages to rise to the top as a result of predestination — but there are no crowning touches to rescue Space Chimps from the depths of despair. Unlike Jack Black’s admittedly endearing panda who actually makes a feeble effort to train for his mission, we get Andy Samberg as a slacker chimpanzee that makes Matthew McConaughey look like a cutthroat stock broker on Wall Street. Ham III (Samberg) has lived in the hair-covered shadow of his grandfather chimp, who was the first simian in space. Not that Ham gives a rat’s ass, for he’d rather get his rocks off as the non-human cannonball in a travelling circus. Meanwhile, the space program loses a multi-million dollar space probe when it inexplicably vanishes into a wormhole. Since it’s too risky to send humans through a wormhole, the chimps will have to do the job. So, the odious Senator (Stanley Tucci),
kidnaps recruits Ham for the good public relations his name generates.
Once on the scene, Ham’s (alleged) charisma somehow makes him a natural at every task, whether it’s withstanding 10Gs, running the treadmill, or wooing the lady chimp, Luna (Cheryl Hines), with the most blatant flirtation methods known to fratboys worldwide. Ham’s pickup lines are one step away from “Did you break wind, baby? Because you just blew me away.” In response to such indiscriminate attempts to get into her pants, Luna drolly rolls her eyes and offers sardonic chimp-oriented insults such as, “You’re missing a link.” No shortage of this sort of hysteria is to be found throughout Space Chimps, especially from Titan (Patrick Warburton), who is, nominally, the chief chimp of the crew, who “chimprovises” his dialogue with consistently awful chimp-related puns. Once the filmmakers decide it’s finally time for something to happen, the chimp trio crashes upon the planet Malgor, which looks like Hello Kitty drank too many fuzzy navels and puked all over the “Pimp My Ride” version of the set from “Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner.” The chimps soon encounter the non-villainous villain, Zartog (Jeff Daniels), a character that is poorly drawn, in both the animated and literal senses, and unconvincingly voiced by Daniels, who clearly transmitted his performance via Blackberry. Even more disappointing is the voicework of Stanley Tucci, who seems entirely unaware of the Senator’s corrupt ways while he listlessly drones on needing chimps with star power.
To conclude Space Chimps, the script makes a halfassed attempt at evoking a courageous character with Kilowatt, the oh-shit-we-scored-Kristin-Chenoweth-quick-better-write-her-in sort of role. Now, whether Chenowith initially realized that her character looks like a talking boobie, well, that’s just one of the great mysteries of the warp-drive universe. What is clear, however, is that Kilowatt’s 36-DD head was purposely written to turn on its headlights and shriek operatically whenever anything even remotely frightening enters the frame. All of this sheer preciousness simply pales in comparison to the moment when Kilowatt crawls out of a flesh-eating monster’s ass. How adorable! This inadequately vainglorious moment illustrates that, just as between humans and chimps, the difference between superior and crappy CGI animated films isn’t merely a matter of available resources. After all, you can dress a chimp up in a prom dress, but he’ll still throw his crap at you.
Agent Bedhead (a.k.a. “Kimberly”) lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She can be found at agentbedhead.com.Brought to You By Those Crap-Flinging Primates
Film Reviews | July 19, 2008 | Comments ()