“Gigi & Nate” is inspired by the true story of a young man and his life-changing friendship with a service animal, who happens to be a capuchin monkey. 17-year-old Nate Gibson (played by Charlie Rowe) was just weeks away from starting college when he contracted meningitis, which resulted in him becoming a quadriplegic.
Some of the film’s most raw, authentic and effective scenes come early. They involve Nate’s parents (Marcia Gay Harden and Jim Belushi) dealing with the shock, panic and unknown.
The story quickly fast-forwards four years and we see how Nate and his family members are coping. (He has two sisters and a grandmother — played by Diane Ladd — living in their Nashville home.) Nate receives daily, intense nursing care and physical therapy. A jarring suicide attempt prompts Mom & Dad to get Nate even more help: a rescued capuchin monkey named Gigi. They bond very quickly, but their relationship will be tested by inside and outside forces.
“Gigi & Nate” is rated PG-13. The first chunk of the movie is why it gets the “13”. The second half puts the emphasis on the PG, with scenes of the family dog chasing Gigi around the house and sitcomy subplots involving the family and a new love interest. Ladd provides some colorful language as the feisty granny.
This story is wholesome enough and is apparently based on some actual events (though references to the film’s source material are unusually scarce both online and in the marketing). But “Gigi & Nate” is highly predictable and disjointed. The veteran cast members clearly deliver stronger performances than the newcomers (though Allie, the primate that plays Gigi, is solid). And amazingly, though director Nick Hamm stretches this simple tale to nearly two-hours, he rushes through some late pivotal events as if his tail is on fire.
You may choose to Monkey See “Gigi & Nate”— but Monkey Do NOT make it a priority.
LCJ GRADE: C
Running Time: 114 min.