Kind of sappy in places, but too important (and cute) to ignore
Okay, let's all agree that voicing dialogue for a young ape is sappy. It's something maybe only a Tim Allen can pull off. But once you get into the mood, this movie is a superb tale of hope for a virtually unknown -- and endangered -- member of the ape family.
Following the capture, recovery, and sanctuary life of Beny, a bonobo whose mother was shot by poachers, the movie both moved me and made me laugh, all while enlightening me on the traits that make bonobos special. I think the writers did an excellent job, for the most part, at interpreting the bonobo behaviors, to make it real for viewers. I was bothered that they referred to apes as "monkeys" several times, but that may have been an (ill-advised) effort to relate to an animal that people recognize. (The great apes -- gorillas, chimps, orangutans, and bonobos -- are not monkeys.)
Claudine, the human "mother" who started the sanctuary, is indeed an angel. She is beautiful, and I loved watching the bonobos love her. Apes can tell the difference between friends and frauds, and the beautiful shots of the bonobos playing with her show the strong bonds between them.
This is a lovely movie for children. The producers made a deliberate decision, it appears, to skip over all the bonobo sex stuff, and focus on "hugs." Note, they will have to be old enough to read quickly, because the movie is in French, with English subtitles.
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