The new movie Gigi and Nate shows that one way to shock the monkey comes with work as service animals. Yes, the title monkey Gigi gets a surprise by drinking cocktails at a party, but the movie’s overall thrust points to a more rewarding result from a bond created when she moves in with a quadriplegic young man named Nate. Screenwriter David Hudgins springboards his story from real events when Nate takes an ill-fated leap into deep water.
Four fruitless years of therapy change when Gigi moves in and while not all proves warm and fuzzy, the film maintains a positive outlook, keeping action suitable to family viewing. Nate’s prayerful family remain close despite frequent loud outbursts and occasional questionable behavior. As Granma, Diane Ladd cheerfully flips the bird and enthusiastically hunts down vodka, which would seem more shocking if it didn’t fit into the cliché of gray-haired feistiness. But hey, she has fun with it.
Top billing goes to Oscar winner Marcia Gay Hardin, easily handling requirements as a tiger mom willing to bite, claw, and fight to protect her offspring. The central role goes to England’s Charlie Rowe, even featured and appealing enough to overcome his character’s occasional bad decisions. But when it comes to cute quotient, Allie the capuchin tops the field with her captivating facial expressions and odd little squeaks.
Still, monkey cuteness faces limitations, and Director Nick Hamm could easily eliminate much of the story’s attention to things like plane flights. Though aiming for a message of hope, the film often wallows in mundane detail, slowing its pace and softening its goal.