“Space Chimps” – Susan Granger reviews

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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.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.