Imagine you're a filmmaker and you've got this cockamamie story about astronaut chimps that just won't go away. You don't have much money, but the story involves lots of technology and outer space effects. What do you do? You could use your imagination and shoot in darkness with lots of odd angles and perspectives, like Mario Bava's sci-fi masterpiece Planet of the Vampires (1965). But that would raise all kinds of questions about how to present the chimps. You could do a hand-drawn animated cartoon, something like Persepolis, for comparatively little money. But that would expose the fact that you really don't have much of an idea. So you decide to make a big, computer-animated film, make it fast, fill it with annoying jokes and hope no one notices how cheap and unfinished it looks. But what you don't do is open it three weeks after the astonishing WALL-E so that everyone notices the difference.

Space Chimps comes from the folks who brought you the universally despised animated film Happily N'Ever After (2006), and although I didn't see the earlier film, I'm told Space Chimps represents something of an improvement. Regardless, everything here has a kind of mechanical sheen rather than organic textures, and it feels like something closer to Tron than a cartoon about monkeys. Then comes the story: Ham (voiced by Andy Samberg) is the grandson of a famous chimp astronaut, who actually went into space. The younger Ham works at the circus, getting himself shot out of cannons. In the film's opening scene, he rockets toward the moon and reaches out for it, disappointed when gravity's pull inevitably begins dragging him back toward Earth.