This story of our early ape ancestors is as primitive as its subject; muddy gender politics, awful CGI, misplaced humour, and a soundtrack put together seemingly by accident are just a few of its problems. An epic dud.
Where do I begin with the problems of Animal Kingdom: Lets Go Ape? First of all, the strange animation is no less than but unsettling. The characters, dubbed to be our early ape ancestors, are practically human with their mixed facial features but some are further developed than others making it confusing as to whether they are all the same species. But the problems keep coming.
Perhaps most damning is the main male character, Edouard, who is rejected at birth for being smaller than his brother. Voiced by Ben Bishop in the UK version of the film, his colloquial language and overly casual demeanour comes across as a desperate attempt to be culturally relevant. With references to iconic figures such as David Beckham and Batman, and countries such as Scotland and France, the film loses its historical reference point by shoehorning in popular culture that is yet to happen or impossible for the characters to know about. Whilst many films may refer to current trends to keep audiences interested, Animal Kingdom often leaves you baffled by the placement of this seemingly forced humour.
The storyline is admittedly quite pleasing. The evolution of the tribe learning new things with the help of Edouard is intellectually stimulating and interesting as, for example, the introduction of walking on two legs, glue and fire into their lives shows how the characters learn to cook hot food and run faster on two instead of four legs. However, while an educational edge to the film seeps through its cracks, the baffling revelation of Edouard discovering beatboxing takes it back another couple of steps.
Also odd is the choice of music in the film, ranging from drum and base artists such as Skrillex, all the way to old classics. The strange combination of artists can be slightly confusing and off-putting as the heavy drum and base simply does not fit with the film.
As Animal Kingdom: Let’s Go Ape is aimed at a younger audience it leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth. If children watching the film were to copy the language and body language that the characters omit, then I’m not sure parents would be too happy. Most disturbing of all are the references that come from Edouard on topics such as the women in the tribe; the film’s gender politics are as primitive as the low-grade CGI.
The original French version of the film has been dubbed with the English language for its UK release and while this does make it far more accessible for audiences, especially the younger geographic, it isn’t without its own problems. The distracting realisation that the voices do not reciprocate the mouth movements of the characters is another nail in the film’s coffin.
Animal Kingdom: Let’s Go Ape isn’t completely devoid of interesting ideas when it comes to the evolution of our species but its mixed messages and, at times, muddy politics, paints it into a corner it can’t escape from. Whether or not director Jamel Debbouze was able to pull the wool over the eyes of his French audience matters little in its English-language form. I’m sure the UK is going to be a tougher nut to crack.
Written by Alice Rose Batley
Directed by: Guy Distad
Written by: Willem Wennekers
Starring: Rob Schneider
Released: 2015 / Genre: Sports/Comedy
Country: USA / IMDB
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Animal Kingdom: Let’s Go Ape is out now on DVD courtesy of Signature Entertainment.