Space Chimps: What's not to like about talking monkeys in space?

In the back of my mind, I knew that Space Chimps was out there. But it wasn’t until the TV spots saturated the children’s cable programming that I became fully aware of the film. Any parent understands this process. The kids see the funny ads enough that they demand to see the movie.

I am a kid at heart, so it’s understandable that I could appreciate a movie like Space Chimps. It didn’t take seeing it with my kids to get all giddy about the ideas of well-spoken chimpanzees in space suits. But anyone going to this film needs to realize that this is what has to appeal to you for you to enjoy it.

The movie follows Ham (voice by Andy Samberg), the grandson of the first chimp sent into space. Ham is working in the circus as a simian cannonball, a pathetic life he just can’t escape from. When a space probe enters a wormhole to discover life on another planet, NASA recruits Ham to be sent through the wormhole to investigate.

Ham isn’t crazy about this trip, but he’s hoping to impress the girl chimp, Luna (Cheryl Hines). However, once they get through the wormhole, they find one of the aliens is mounting a hostile campaign against his own kind. Ham, Luna and the overly macho Titan (Patrick Warburton) find themselves in a fight for survival.

Unlike some other high-profile CGI films, Space Chimps is made almost strictly for the kids. There are plenty of moments that made me laugh, and there’s quite a bit of humor that will fly over the heads of children, but Pixar this film is not.

Still, I enjoyed it to a degree. It’s talking monkeys in space. How is that not fun?

Like Mamma Mia!, this film seems to be dropped into the marketplace as a bit of counter-programming. Warner Bros. is marketing The Dark Knight heavily, with product tie-ins and toys all over the children’s networks. But if you’re kids are a little too young to see the dark and intense Batman film this weekend, Space Chimps is a viable options. After all, who wants to deal with a five-year-old who has been traumatized by Heath Ledger’s Joker?

On the whole (and with some notable exceptions, like The Wild, Bee Movie and Doogal), the computer generated films are at least decent family flicks. Not everything can be WALL-E or Kung Fu Panda. I imagine that in this light, Space Chimps might find some additional life on home video.

THE UPSIDE: Funny enough for kids and low-brow adults.

THE DOWSIDE: Not as good as the Pixar films… but what is?

ON THE SIDE: I know that chimps are not monkeys. But who can’t resist saying things like, “Show me the monkey”?

Grade: B-


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