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Dustin Putman

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Space Chimps  (2008)
1 Star
Directed by Kirk De Micco.
Cast: Andy Samberg, Cheryl Hines, Patrick Warburton, Jeff Daniels, Kristin Chenoweth, Omid Abtahi, Patrick Breen, Kenan Thompson, Carlos Alazraqui, Kath Soucie, Stanley Tucci, Jane Lynch, Zach Shada.
2008 – 81 minutes
Rated: Rated G (equivalent of a PG for crude humor and thinly-veiled sexual references).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, July 13, 2008.
The artists and filmmakers over at Pixar have nothing to worry about. The third forgettable release from Vanguard Animation (following 2005's "Valiant" and 2007's "Happily N'Ever After") and the inaugural theatrical effort from Starz Media, "Space Chimps" is an especially junky Saturday morning cartoon stretched to feature length. Writer-director Kirk De Micco and co-writer Robert Moreland have concocted a lame, uninspired and unctuous family movie notable for a whole lot of things it does wrong and nothing it gets right. Don't let the G rating fool you, either; the proceedings are dripping with adult-oriented humor of a scatological sort, not to mention a supporting character whose head looks like a large, pointy-nippled bare breast, complete with a realistically subtle veininess to the skin that makes it seem all the more creepy and unclean.

Ham III (voiced by Andy Samberg) is a scatterbrained circus performer whose late grandfather was famously the first chimp to go into space. Because of his ancestry, Ham is sought out by a senator (Stanley Tucci) and four NASA scientists (Omid Abtahi, Patrick Breen, Jane Lynch, Kath Soucie) to join serious-minded astronaut chimps Luna (Cheryl Hines) and Titan (Patrick Warburton) on a new mission into space. When the three of them crash land on a heretofore undiscovered planet, Ham and Luna find themselves involved in a fight to save the captured Titan and return order to an alien population overrun by evil dictator Zartog (Jeff Daniels).

Where to begin when discussing the inadequacies of "Space Chimps," a cheap-looking film that is a downright embarrassment when compared to this summer's other two animated releases, "Kung Fu Panda" and "WALL•E?" For starters, the computer-generated animation looks like a prototype of the format, circa the early 1990s. Visual details are lackluster, at best, so poorly defined that not even the characters' mouths are able to correctly synch up with the dialogue half the time. The screenplay lacks imagination, wit and personality, with far too many jokes relying on corny "chimp" puns and one gag actually referencing the "Macarena." Has this picture been sitting on the shelf for a decade?

Whatever the case may be, the only even partially amusing element is the voice work of Kristin Chenoweth (2006's "RV"), clearly having a ball as the opera-belting Kilowatt, an adorable little alien creature who helps Ham and Luna on their quest across the planet. That Kilowatt has been designed to unmistakably look like a literal walking, talking boob is woeful, though the very sight of her does inspire the few (unintentional) funny moments on display. The only other potentially interesting aspect comes when the chimps discover they are not astronauts at all, but guinea pigs being used by NASA for experimentation purposes. Everything else about the movie is either annoyingly frantic, beyond tedious, or just plain awkward. So low was the budget, apparently, that songs on the soundtrack start and then jarringly stop before lyrics are heard, or are barely recognizable cover versions. A sexual metaphor about penises—"it's not the size that matters, but how you use it" is uttered—and a scene where a character is eaten by a creature and escapes death by exiting its anus is so inappropriate that the MPAA must have been asleep when they rated this G.

"Space Chimp" is low-rent hogwash with a serviceable voice cast who are unable to breathe life into their bland characters. Not sophisticated enough to divert adults and strictly disposable for the most undiscriminating of children, the film just sits there, trapped in a swamp of bad material. It is offensive tripe that should have never been given a theatrical berth. Audiences seeking entertainment for the whole family deserve better.
© 2008 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman