The Jennie Project (2001)
Movie Review by Debbie Winkler
Starring: Alex D. Linz, Sheila Kelley, Lance Guest, Abigail Mavity, Joel McKinnon Miller
Director: Gary Nadeau
Release Date: 13 July 2001
Length: 76 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: TV
My Rating: 3/5 stars
This movie is based on the book Jennie by Douglas Preston and is about a professor who spends a lot of time in Africa studying animals. Exotic pets are nothing new for the Archibalds, as the local mailman will testify after getting bitten by one of their lizards, but this time Dr. Alex has surpassed himself and brought home an orphaned chimpanzee named Jennie. At first, the children resent the attention and time that Jennie takes away from them, but they grow to love her. As Jennie learns to speak through sign language, she brings the whole family closer together. However, not everyone in the scientific community agrees that the Archibald house is the best place for Jennie and are determined to use her for more formal scientific study in a special animal center.
This is another movie made-for-TV for the Disney Channel and it was decent entertainment for an evening at home. The premise is pretty ridiculous, as always, but could happen, I guess. When a professor (Lance Guest) brings an orphaned chimpanzee, Jennie, home with him, his family struggles to adjust to having another person in the home. Jennie believes she is human, but she isn’t and so everyone struggles to figure out where she fits into their lives. The two younger children in the family seem to get attached to Jennie pretty quickly, especially the son (Alex D. Linz), who is about 10 years old and struggles with not being the genius his father was at his age. The children may grow to love Jennie, but their mother (Sheila Kelley) isn’t sure that she is ready to have such a willful “child” wreaking havoc in her house. She is already struggling to raise 2 children on her own while her husband is away in Africa studying apes in their natural habitat and doesn’t need any other strains and stress on their marriage. The movie pretty much goes through the family’s adjustments to include Jennie in their lives, including how the neighbors react and how the scientific community reacts to a family adopting a chimpanzee.
This movie provides some moderately interesting information about the ape family and how they are similar to humans. Jennie learns to speak through sign language and gets into all kinds of mischief, just like a human toddler. While these escapades are entertaining, they also show how frustrating training an animal, no matter how intelligent, can be. This movie has a few laughs, a few tender moments and a cute little storyline. There is a little bit of something for everyone in the family to enjoy and is clean enough that children, no matter how young, can watch it and you don’t need to worry about what they are going to pick up on. This movie isn’t anything special, but it was something I caught on the Disney Channel and I found it decent entertainment.
Appropriate for viewers of all ages, recommended for viewers ages 3 and up.