We just had robots in space (WALL-E), and soon we will have insects in space (Fly Me to the Moon), but for now, thanks to Space Chimps, we have monkeys in space. Can a revival of The Muppet Show's "Pigs in Space" segment be far off?
Alas, Space Chimps isn't exactly up to Pixar's standards in the technical quality or charming characterization departments, and it's so underwhelming on so many levels that it's pretty much guaranteed to be less fun than Fly Me to the Moon, which, no matter how bad it might be (and I haven't seen it yet, so for all I know it might actually be good), will at least have the benefit of being released in 3-D.
Space Chimps does have its merits, to a point. For one thing, the script, by director Kirk De Micco (who previously co-wrote the talking-zebra movie Racing Stripes) and Robert Moreland (Happily N'Ever After), demonstrates a genuine fondness for the early days of NASA, and the animation is at its most impressive when it replicates the look and feel of rockets blasting off and objects floating in zero gravity.
The story takes as its starting point a real-life chimp named Ham, who became the first hominid to be launched into space way back in 1961. Ham, who died in 1983, is referred to here as Ham I, to distinguish him from his fictitious grandson Ham III (voice of Saturday Night Live's Andy Samberg), a circus performer who capitalizes on his grandfather's fame by getting himself shot out of a cannon and up into the sky on a nightly basis. He does it to bask in the celebrity, but you get the sense he also wants a taste, just a taste, of what it might have been like to reach for the stars.
Ham's dreams come true when NASA decides it needs to send some chimps, rather than humans, on a dangerous mission ...1