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Project Nim Review

  • Release Date: Jul 08, 2011
  • Rated: Some strong language, drug content, thematic elements and disturbing images
  • Runtime: 1 hr. 39 min.
  • Genres: Documentary
  • Director:James Marsh

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 5.0

    out of 100

    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 70

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    For the most part, though, the real people - the movers and shakers of Nim's world - are there to speak for themselves in the present as well as the past, and the main ones are, with a conspicuous exception, a sorry, self-serving lot.

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  • 80

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter

    While this is fascinating material, it's the flawed human behavior it exposes that makes the story so compelling. And yet what elevates Marsh's film is the even-handedness of his perspective.

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  • 83

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    A fascinating and in many ways tragic documentary, takes us back to one of the high-water marks of the apes-are-people-too era.

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  • See all Project Nim reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 14+

Affecting chimpanzee docu is more than monkey business.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this engrossing, moving documentary about a groundbreaking study of animals and language has some intense material that may be too much for younger viewers. There are frank discussions about how a chimpanzee violently attacks his caretakers (some moments are dramatized, showing not the attacks themselves but the bloody aftermath) and references to drug use, even by the chimp. There's some swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t"), and participants talk about sexual relationships among colleagues, some of which don't end well. That said, teens and adults will be fascinated by both the scientific study at the heart of the movie and the politics and tensions behind it, and the movie is sure to spur discussion about animal rights and cruelty.  

  • Families can talk about the movie's messages about animal experimentation. Were the researchers right to do what they did? Should more questions be asked before a project is started? How did Project Nim influence future ethical dilemmas about animal experimentation?
  • Did you learn something from watching this movie? Should that be the goal of a documentary?
  • How are documentaries different from fictional movies? Do they effect change? If so, how?

The good stuff
  • message true2

    Messages: The movie's more sad than anything, but it does come across as a good thing that Nim's story is finally being told and that steps are being taken to ensure the welfare of animals who've been adopted into the human world.

  • rolemodels true2

    Role models: While some of the people in the movie don't appear to be as concerned for Nim's welfare, others -- like Joyce, Bill, and Bob -- seem to genuinely understand the importance of taking care of him. The openness for which the 1970s are known permeates the film; there's an air of intellectual curiosity and the freedom to pursue it.

What to watch for
  • violence false2

    Violence: Two frighteningly aggressive attacks by a chimpanzee are described in detail and shown in hazy flashback; some spattered blood is seen. Some scenes depict caged animals who aren't treated well.

  • sex false1

    Sex: Candid conversation about affairs and the like. No nudity, though there's a reference to a chimpanzee's self-pleasuring.

  • language false3

    Language: "Bitch," "hell," "holy s--t" and, a few uses of "f--k."

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Some participants are shown smoking pot, including the chimpanzee. A mention of alcohol.