In the middle of summer, which should be family film paradise, comes this decidedly disappointing, if occasionally diverting digitally animated feature.
Back in 1961, NASA blasted off a chimpanzee named Ham (an acronym for Holloman Aerospace Medical Center) on a brief mission as an initial test run for future manned space exploration. That’s the historical fact that screenwriter/director Kirk DeMicco and his co-writer, Robert Moreland, have fictionalized into a psycho-babbling story about three brainy primates that are dispatched after an Infinity probe crash-lands on an alien planet.
Ham III (Andy Samberg of “SNL”) is the irresponsible grandson of the original space explorer. Until he’s summoned by NASA, his only aeronautical experience is as a cannonball in the circus that is routinely launched into the night sky. He’s joined by a lovely co-pilot, Lt. Luna (Cheryl Hines of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”), and John Wayne-like Commander Titan (Patrick Warburton). Following the Infinity probe through a worm-hole, they land on the planet Malgor, where they battle power-mad Lord Zartog (Jeff Daniels) and–with the help of a tiny, chirpy critter called Kilowatt (Kristin Chenoweth)–they help liberate the enslaved Malgoreans. Meanwhile, back at Mission Control, there’ Ham’s mentor (Carlos Alazraqui), a nasty Senator (Stanley Tucci), and a trio of racially stereotypical scientists including a Hindi nerd (Omid Abtahi).
Chuckles are hard to come by, even when the simians spin pathetic parodies of the training scenes from “The Right Stuff” and give nods to “Planet of the Apes,” “Star Wars” and “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Space Chimps” is a strangely surrealistic, candy-colored 3. Don’t monkey around with this generic CGI stupidity. Instead, take the kids to see “WALL-E.” If they’ve already seen it, take them again.