Disneynature unveiled its fourth American Earth Day doc this weekend with Chimpanzee, a glimpse into the life of young chimp Oscar, who may or may not boast more refinement than narrator Tim Allen. Leading the film with at least a small hope from Disney that names will have influence in next year’s Documentary Feature race, Oscar is but the latest filmic primate to captivate viewers, his adorable anthropomorphism reflecting back the basest human instincts and pastimes. More than any other class of creature, Oscar and his ilk afford an audience the fun of animal voyeurism right along with a close species identification. It’s what helps movie monkeys to endure, from the big to the small, the winged to the animated.
Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011). Andy Serkis didn’t land the Supporting Actor nomination many forward-thinking fans felt he deserved, but he did bulk up his mo-cap performance resumé with his memorable turn as Caesar, the special lab chimp who goes from James Franco’s house pal to leader of the monkey revolution. Someone had to get the fateful ball rolling in this ominous prequel, and Serkis’s Caesar proves game for the task, counting among his memorable moments the electrocution of sniveling Hogwarts grad Tom Felton.