The new computer animated film Space Chimps can best be described as a simian reworking of The Right Stuff. In place of Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn and Ed Harris as the intrepid pioneers of space flight we’re given the voices of SNL star Andy Samberg, Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Cheryl Hines and cartoon Seinfeld’s Puddy, Patrick Warburton as Ham III, Luna and Titan, three chimps who boldly go where no chimp has gone before.
The action begins when Ham III, the circus-performing grandson of the first chimp astronaut, is recruited to join a space mission with two experienced chimp astronauts. Sent to a galaxy far, far away, they land on a planet whose peaceful inhabitants have been enslaved by the megalomaniac dictator Zartog (Jeff Daniels). Because Space Chimps is aimed directly at the tween and younger crowd, in the process of saving the planet and its people Ham III learns valuable about himself and how to get along with others. In short, he proves he has “the right stuff.”
The first thing you’ll notice about Space Chimps is that it looks as though it was animated by chimps. Rudimentary in the extreme, it pales by comparison to Pixar, looking more like video game graphics from the late 90s. With the exception of Kilowatt (Kristin Chenoweth), an adorable big-headed creature who screams operatically when scared, the characters look stilted and don’t move realistically.
The animation wouldn’t be as big an issue if the script had more going for it. The screenplay doesn’t exactly feel like it is the result of one hundred monkeys typing on a hundred typewriters but whoever wrote lines like “Whoa Furious George!” and “We’ll have to chimpervise a solution” isn’t that much further up on the evolutionary scale.
Still it is a good hearted little movie. Forgettable maybe, and not particularly interesting for anyone over the age of ten, but Space Chimps may appeal to kids too old for Curious George but not quite old enough for Planet of the Apes.