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John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Despite some flaws, the endearing wildlife documentary "Chimpanzee" (Disneynature) offers an enjoyable expedition for moviegoers of just about every age.

Parents of the tiniest tots take note, however: Though morally suitable for all, the picture does involve a significant survival-of-the-fittest plot development that may prove too emotionally taxing for the most sensitive youngsters.

Set in the Ivory Coast's lush Tai Forest, this fourth quality offering from the Disneynature outfit follows the fortunes of a young chimp named Oscar. In characteristically well-captured early scenes, frolicsome Oscar is watched over and cared for by his devoted mother, Isha. She nurtures him while also supplying implicit instruction in the skills he will eventually need to live on his own.

Oscar's education is abruptly interrupted, however, when the extended clan with whom he and Isha live become caught up in a turf war with a rival band of simians. Though the conflict that ensues is dramatically engaging, its treatment represents one of the shortcomings that mar this otherwise polished project.

Sentimental from the start, co-directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield's narrative—recorded, in mostly jaunty tones, by Tim Allen—now engages in shameless anthropomorphizing. The leader of Oscar's tribe, dubbed Freddy by the filmmakers, is portrayed as heroic, while his chief opponent, on whom they impose the none-too-subtle moniker Scar, is demonized as the leader of an aggressive band of marauding warriors.

Since all the animals portrayed are acting on instinct as they pursue the never-ending struggle for optimal living conditions, such taking sides—however well it may serve to frame a story for humans—is hardly scientific.

Still, even the most levelheaded will find it hard not to sympathize with diminutive, cuddly Oscar as—sadly ill-equipped by his lack of experience—he faces the daunting consequences of the Darwinian clash by which he's been impoverished. Nor will they fail to be touched by the unexpected turn of events that ultimately transforms Oscar's adventure into a thoroughly upbeat one.

The film contains scenes of animal combat. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I—general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G—general audiences. All ages admitted.

John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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<p>James was born in the Marche of Ancona, in central Italy along the Adriatic Sea. After earning doctorates in canon and civil law at the University of Perugia, he joined the Friars Minor and began a very austere life. He fasted nine months of the year; he slept three hours a night. St. Bernardine of Siena told him to moderate his penances. </p><p>James studied theology with St. John of Capistrano. Ordained in 1420, James began a preaching career that took him all over Italy and through 13 Central and Eastern European countries. This extremely popular preacher converted many people (250,000 at one estimate) and helped spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. His sermons prompted numerous Catholics to reform their lives and many men joined the Franciscans under his influence. </p><p>With John of Capistrano, Albert of Sarteano and Bernardine of Siena, James is considered one of the "four pillars" of the Observant movement among the Franciscans. These friars became known especially for their preaching. </p><p>To combat extremely high interest rates, James established <i>montes pietatis</i> (literally, mountains of charity)--nonprofit credit organizations that lent money at very low rates on pawned objects. </p><p>Not everyone was happy with the work James did. Twice assassins lost their nerve when they came face to face with him. James died in 1476 and was canonized in 1726.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us never tire of seeking the Lord—of letting ourselves be sought by him—of tending over our relationship with him in silence and prayerful listening. Let us keep our gaze fixed on him, the center of time and history; let us make room for his presence within us.

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