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Netflix Daily Pick: Going Ape in ‘Project X’ (1987)

Today's pick is a fun family adventure about a chimp and his handler.

Project X is a 1997 drama about an Air Force pilot who joins a top secret military experiment involving chimps, but begins to suspect there might be something more to the mysterious project.

Today’s Netflix Pick is a tense and unusual drama about apes that don’t want to take over the planet. Starring Matthew Broderick and Helen Hunt, the film was a minor box office hit and drew positive reviews but has fallen into relative obscurity. While it addresses some serious issues, it’s not too dark and avoids the trappings of a silly romance, instead going for a plausible story and believable situations. It’s Project X and it’s what you’re watching tonight. Here’s why.

THE STORY: Directed by Jonathan Kaplan, the film begins with a chimp named Virgil who has been trained by graduate student Teri MacDonald (Hunt) to speak in American Sign Language. However, when her funding is cut, she’s forced to sell the animal, assured it will go to a sanctuary. You can be sure she is deceived though, and Virgil is instead taken to a top secret Air Force project where apes are trained to fly in aircraft simulation units. Working there is Airman Jimmy Garrett (Broderick), who gets assigned Virgil and soon realizes that the ape has special abilities. But when Jimmy learns the real secret behind the project, he contacts Teri and the two must work together to uncover the truth and save the animals.

Project X
Project X, 1987 © Amercent Films

WHY YOU NEED TO WATCH: It’s a rare thing in movies when an animal, especially a chimpanzee, isn’t propped up for laughs, and more so, to have the theme be about preservation. Project X is by itself a compelling story, even without the animals, but the added layer of the chimps fates is not only engaging, it’s often touching. While the movie never quite gets as heavy as it could and the ending might feel like an easy solution, the film as a whole is a lot of fun and both Broderick and Hunt are very good. Watch it with the family. It’s streaming on Netflix right now.