John H. Williams makes his directorial debut with Space Chimps 2: Zartog Strikes Back. Having cut his teeth as a producer on the Shrek series and the first Space Chimps. Williams is also the founder of the film’s studio company – Vanguard Animation. Vanguard is the company behind the first Space Chimps, Valiant, and Happily N’Ever After. Many have asked why the sequel has been made; being that the first film was about as memorable as a Statistical Analysis Conference for Alzheimer’s sufferers. Well, here we see the chimps monkey’ing around back on Earth, looking forward to their return to the planet Malgor, Zartog safely encrusted in metal. However the monkey poo hits the cooling fan when our hero unwittingly launches himself into space, releasing Zartog – who then goes on a de-particalizing rampage.
The plot is so simple you could probably follow it in your sleep (which is handy). Regardless I will summarize the story so succinctly that such sleepy saps as this site’s surly readers will be able to grasp the premise quite quickly. Well, Comet (Zack Shada) is looking forward to meeting his Malgorian friend Kilowatt (Kristin Chenoweth), when he finds out he has been cut from the space programme due to budget cutbacks. Comet goes off into the rocket ship for… some reason, and accidently launches the thing into space – not that anybody notices for about half an hour. Meanwhile Zartog (Jeff Daniels) has broken free from his prison-like state and charges into the space station looking to cause mayhem. Finding a ray gun that turns an object of any size into nothing, you have to fancy his chances of causing said mayhem.
Let me first say that I have never really found apes to be that appealing. Cats are cute, horses are magnificent, snakes are cool, and monkeys are just pre-evolved humans – in my opinion. Plus if you evolve a cat or a snake who knows what kind of hyper-advanced creature you could end up sharing the planet with? Evolve a chimp and what do you get? More humans. Boring! Also let us establish the film’s target audience: children under ten. It is a simple film for simple minds. Not Transformers 2 simple, just Teletubbies simple.
I have to say I don’t know why this was released in cinemas. Nothing about it warrants a look on the big screen. The animation is quite frankly television quality. I reckon at one point an animator probably said “Sorry boss but I just can’t do walking”. It would look fine on CBeebies, but as my cinema-going friend pointed out it was ‘PlayStation One’ quality. Not good enough. The humour was dire, everything about the picture is just so weak compared to recent children’s films such as Up and How to Train Your Dragon. I don’t know if the product placements were just to make the film easy to relate to for younger children or whether there was any darker thinking there that should make one lament our consumerist culture.
I think the film’s morals are its one saving grace. As a kid’s film there isn’t anything inappropriate or anything really ‘just for the adults’. One can admire it for aiming straight at children without having to bother keeping parents and film reviewers happy. I am a big fan of space, and probably the most interesting bit of the film was seeing the (real life) shots from the Hubble Space telescope that Comet was admiring on his space journey. One of the highlights of the film was spotting the Whirlpool Galaxy from my pc’s wallpaper – which is hardly a good thing if that is a ‘highlight’. One could argue that it teaches children that space, science and animals are fun; but if you have to show them films like this to teach them that you might as well just plum for brainwashing.
At 76 minutes long it is probably the shortest feature in cinemas this year, yet it will feel like one of the longest. Written by adults for children, it plays like it was written by monkeys for the brain-dead. A pretty hollow effort that is best forgotten, I can’t recommend this to anyone other than simple children who like monkeys. Take your little monkeys to the National Space Centre in Leicester instead and avoid this black hole of humour.