This crude CGI motion-capture cartoon marks the directorial debut of French actor, comedian and pop-cultural phenomenon Jamel Debbouze (‘Amélie’, ‘Days of Glory’). The fact that the central character, sharp-witted monkey runt Edward, is based on Debbouze and was voiced by him in the French version will do little to sell the film to British audiences unaware of his celebrity pull.
More problematic, however, is the visual style. The apes have weirdly humanoid figures – including breasts on the females – and recognisably human faces. It’s hard to work out which is creepier: the fur-covered secondary sexual characteristics or the rubbery texture of the motion-capture performers’ ape-faces.
The plot has echoes of ‘The Lion King’: two sons are born to the ape king but are separated at birth when one is rejected for his physical imperfections. However the abandoned heir Edward (voiced in the English translation by Ben Bishop) proves that strength isn’t everything by inventing fire, weaponry, glue, cooking, diplomacy and, God help us all, beat-boxing.