In a film distributor’s office, I always imagined that there were two separate piles of film cans. One pile is for movies destined for a cinema release while the other is for those going straight to DVD. Imagine it’s a really busy Friday afternoon with everyone trying to clear their desks before end of play. As the last person out the door is about to leave, a courier delivers a movie but in the rush to get down the Tappas bar it ends up in the wrong pile. So, theatrical prints are made at the Lab and only too late is it discovered that it should have gone straight to DVD. The distributors have no choice but to release it with a full cinema marketing campaign. The tag line could have been ‘Space Chimps 2 – Houston we have a turkey!”
I was actually looking forward to seeing ‘Space Chimps 2: Zartog Strikes Back’ as it purported to be a comedy and the premise of chimps in space seemed like a good one. I had only seen the trailer for the original ‘Space Chimps’ from 2008 and it looked as if it contained humour for children as well as adults, so presumably the sequel would continue in the same vein. Well, yes and no.
Yes, it seems to use all the same jokes - and no, they aren’t all that funny.
The film comes from the producer of ‘Shrek’, so you’d think it would be good. In actual fact, it’s John H. Williams’s directorial debut but it’s way too late for him to have his name removed from the credits.
Okay, so what’s it all about?
While space chimps Ham (voiced by Tom Kenny, replacing original star Andy Samberg), Luna (Cheryl Hines) and Titan (Patrick Warburton) are preparing for their next mission, techno-geek chimp Comet (Zach Shada) accidentally blasts into space and ends up on the planet Malgor where he teams up with his alien friend Kilowatt (Laura Bailey, replacing original star Kristin Chenoweth) –whose head lights up when she gets excited and who also has a habit of making annoying high pitched sounds that would agitate a cat.
Meanwhile, the explosion from Comet's accidental blast-off releases alien overlord Zartog (not original star Jeff Daniels, but another replacement) from his frozen prison as a garden statue and he heads straight for mission control, vowing revenge on those responsible for his predicament.
Humour is then attempted to be wrung out of situations involving fly-swallowing, falling off treadmills, dance routines, human/chimp/alien language barriers, and zooming around on jet-packs. I felt totally numb watching this and began to wonder if there was something wrong with me as I just wasn’t even smiling. Half the fun of an animation is recognising the voices of the stars. The only name I recognised was Stanley Tucci who played Meryl Streep’s husband in the excellent ‘Julie & Julia’.
Obviously it’s aimed at an audience of mainly young children, but kids are a bit more sophisticated these days than to sit through this kind of monkey business. I’m guessing they’d start to lose interest after 15 minutes. Thankfully though, we’re spared a slew of ‘pooping’ gags but I do recall a repeated line (four times) about chimps ‘missing a link’ to the point where I wanted to show the writer, Rob Moreland, another use for a banana. I’m guessing he used the ‘cut and paste’ function on his Word Processor to produce the script. It just lacks wit, charm, warmth and originality. Apart from that it’s okay.
In an attempt to persuade the cinema going public to part with hard earned cash, it was released in the latest money earner – 3D - with people paying a premium to see this version.
I am so glad I did not take an entire family to see this film in the cinema. I’ve heard legendary tales of people demanding their money back from a cinema manager after a poor movie, but have never actually done it myself (although I’m Scottish). I should think there was a long queue of irate patrons outside the manager’s office after screenings of ‘Space Chimps 2’.
It arrives on Region B locked Blu-ray with both the normal 2D as well as the 3D version on separate discs within the box. I started out by watching the 3D version and unlike the fully polarised 3D version released in the cinemas, what we get is the old fashioned anaglyphic 3D which requires the use of red and blue spectacles to create the 3D effect. While red & blue tints produce better colour than red and green, the 3D effect is pretty unimpressive. There was no sense of ‘Comin’ at ya’, nothing leapt out of the screen and only a few shots had any real depth. I also felt that the cardboard glasses were causing eye strain and I had to find the correct position for my head and then not move at all. This was when I projected the film on a 7 foot screen. When I watched it on a 50 inch plasma, the 3D did not seem to work at all.
The animation on ‘Space Chimps 2’ is reminiscent of the kind you’d see on a low budget kids TV show. The chimp movements bore little or no resemblance to real chimps and the lip articulation seemed very limited. I suppose that’s a benefit if you have to produce foreign language dubs as the characters could almost be saying anything. Hey, opportunity knocks! Let’s write our own gags and re-voice this movie. We’re bound to improve it. Get the kids involved too! Watching this film just makes you fully appreciate the work of Disney, Pixar & Dreamworks. It looks like cheap animation and it is – but if you only pay peanuts, you’ll only get monkeys ( I know it’s a cheap shot but someone had to do that gag).
You’ll have gathered that there are many other things I’d rather do than sit through another screening of ‘Space Chimps 2’. Root canal work springs to mind as does supplying a 12 volt charge to the more sensitive parts of my body, but at the end of it all I still have complete and utter amazement. I’m amazed that it was made in the first place. Avoid it like you’d avoid someone with the Flu.
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