In the movie, a NASA space probe called "Infinity" that was sent to look for life in other planets falls through a wormhole and lands on the planet Malgor. A Malgorian called Zartog (Jeff Daniels) then uses the Earth vehicle to force his people to obey him, on threat of being dipped by its robotic arms into a substance that turns them into living statues.
Meanwhile, a US Senator decides to have the wormhole studied, but in order not to expose humans to the wormhole's possible dangerous effects, they decide to instead send the chimpanzees that they have been training. The chimps (who didn't know that their training was purely a show to entertain tourists; humans cannot understand what they say) are elated. However, the Senator wants more publicity for the event, and forces Ham III (Andy Samberg), the grandson of Ham, the first chimp in space (in real life as well) to join the mission against his will. The group is composed of: Titan (Patrick Warburton), a large, boastful male chimp; Luna (Cheryl Hines), a female, wise one, and Comet, a young one who is an expert with technology. Comet is forced to stay on Earth since Ham was given his seat. Ham starts hitting on Luna, who dislikes his immature attitude, and Titan is mocked openly by Ham.
When their ship reaches Malgor, it is captured (along with Titan) by Zartog's forces, and Luna and Ham are forced to hide in the dangerous alien wilderness. There they meet a small alien they name "Kilowatt" (Kristin Chenoweth) because of its lightbulb-like head. Kilowatt helps them find the way to their ship but is apparently eaten by a monster on the way. Ham eventually confesses to Luna that the reason he acts like a clown is because he feels he cannot live up to his late grandfather's name.
Meanwhile, Zartog forces Titan to tell him more about the Infinity probe. It turns out that the planet's three suns are about to align, and when that happens, the local volcano (which spits out the "freezing" substance Zartog has been using rather than normal lava) will erupt and its flow will destroy the aliens' village (because the building Zartog forced them to build will divert the "lava" their way.) Luna and Ham rescue Titan but find that their ship is actually on automatic pilot (they never really piloted it) and will soon return to Earth on its own. They decide to stay and help the aliens defeat Zartog. The ship leaves without them.
Zartog captures all of them but Titan tricks him into ejecting himself out of the probe; he falls into the solidifying liquid. Then, with radio instructions sent by Comet (and help from the grateful aliens) the chimps disassemble Zartog's palace and turn the probe into a spaceship, then use the volcano's explosion to launch themselves back into space. Ham is forced to pilot it, thus finally redeeming himself in his own eyes. They arrive on Earth just as the Senator was about to cancel the space program. They are received as heroes, their status as true astronauts finally confirmed.
Oh and Kilowatt turns up alive.
Now has a sequel, entitled Space Chimps 2: Zartog Strikes Back. Don't watch it.
- Actor Allusion: Ham III is basically Rod (from Hot Rod) as a chimp - both are played by Andy Samberg.
- And I Must Scream: The "freezing" liquid will instantly solidify anyone who comes into contact with it, effectively turning them into works of art.
- Animal Talk: The chimps and aliens understand each other and humans, but humans don't. Also, the other animals can't talk at all.
- Aliens Speaking English: More like aliens speaking animal talk.
- Zartog seems to understand the English the probe bleats out, though he may just be responding to the pictures....
- Barefoot Cartoon Animal: The chimps, even in their space suits.
- Binary Suns: Malgor has three suns, which give the planet only a five second long nighttime.
- Chekhov's Skill: Ham III's time in the circus has inadvertently prepared him for the space mission.
- Deadpan Snarker: Ham and Luna.
- Disaster Dominoes: Done epically with NASA space rockets.
- Dull Surprise: In the sequel, the guys who accidentally run over Zartog with their car and Titan upon seeing Zartog is back.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys
- Explosion Propulsion
- Five-Man Band
- Heroic Sacrifice: Kilowatt
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Titan seems to like using 'chimp' puns, and it's even lampshaded by Ham.Ham: You're not gonna do that the whole way, are you?Titan: What?Ham: Use 'chimp' to replace real phrases?
- Large Ham - Ham III
- Literal Metaphor:Ham: You're sinking pretty low there.Luna: Yeah, well you deserve it.Ham: No, you're literally going pretty low, we are actually sinking.
- Never Trust a Trailer - The trailer is a bit ambiguous about the plot but it really shows nothing about the movie. It seems more like a couple of astronaut chimp friends going on a mission, and the humans seem to be aware of their behavior.
- Musical Slapstick Montage
- Refusal of the Call: Ham never wants to go into space and tries as hard as he can to get out of it.
- Shout-Out: From Star Wars to Armageddon... AND BEYOND!
- Sound Off:Titan: I am Titan, I am strong!Ham: No one wants to sing along!
- The Stinger: Zartog is turned into a lawn ornament.
- Title Drop: As the trio are finally launched into space.Luna: We are now officially Space Chimps!
- Took a Level in Dumbass: Titan was dumb before, but he reaches extreme levels of stupidity in the sequel when he helps Zartog get into the base.Titan: Wait, I did what now?
- Zartog too. It's clear that the humans don't understand him, but he just doesn't get the message.
- Two Words: Added Emphasis: "Two chimps, two words: animal testing."
- Villain Decay: Zartog in the sequel.