Monkey Kingdom Parent Review
The majestic scenery of Sri Lanka, with both natural and man-made wonders, is a stunning backdrop to this macaque's personal drama.
As has become an annual tradition, Disney Studio’s celebrates Earth Day 2015 with another foray into the natural world. Following in the paw steps of 2014’s Bears, and a host of other DisneyNature documentaries, this installment features a family of Toque Macaque monkeys. A species, native to the jungles of Sri Lanka, they take their name from their crazy, beanie-like hairdo. With expressive faces, lanky limbs, and impressive acrobatics, these quirky creatures are just plain fun to watch.
The cameras make the most of these social animals by introducing us to Maya, a tough and capable female used to being on the bottom of her complex primate pecking order. She’s not too happy with her place. Still, she tolerates being picked on by the alpha male and his female lackeys until a new male shows up on the scene and turns her head.
Even though the dashing bachelor doesn’t stick around for long, Maya later gives birth to his son. The youngster, dubbed Kip, becomes her main priority. In the rough and tumble world of the jungle, this means keeping the infant safe from marauding monitor lizards, fearsome leopards, and the meddlesome tricks of the other monkeys that are constantly competing for food.
However, when rivals invade their habitat, Maya’s community is forced to flee their refuge for a nearby human city. It’s not long before this resourceful single mom becomes a pillar of strength, thanks to her street smarts and survival instincts. Suddenly she is getting the respect she has always craved.
As the narrator (Tina Fey) warns, being a macaque isn’t all fun and games. Even as the little ones joyfully monkey around, there are moments of peril and conflict depicted in the film. One unlucky primate falls prey to a hungry predator, and another loses its life fighting its own kind. Some bloody injuries are briefly shown. Yet the playful exploration of these intelligent mammals soon lightens the mood and offers plenty of laughs.
This obvious underdog story doesn’t teach a whole lot about monkey behavior, but it sure says something about human nature! The script is saturated with contemporary western values and ideals of feminist empowerment. As well, there are clear lines drawn between good and bad guys, using carefully edited footage to support the plot. And there are scenes, especially during interactions with humans, where the antics of these mischievous primates are clearly manipulated.
The majestic scenery of Sri Lanka, with both natural and man-made wonders, is a stunning backdrop to the macaque’s personal drama. So are the hosts of other animals who quietly observe and sometimes join in their silliness. Just be careful the undeniable beauty of the cinematography doesn’t fool you into thinking this production is a documentary. That way you won’t be too disappointed when you realize that instead of an educational film, you’ve witnessed an enjoyable adventure movie—that happens to have monkeys as the main characters.Directed by Mark Linfield, Alastair Fothergill. Starring Tina Fey. Running time: 81 minutes. Theatrical release April 17, 2015. Updated May 18, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Monkey Kingdom here.
Monkey Kingdom Parents Guide
This movie uses footage of real animals interacting to tell a fictional story. How do the filmmakers use music and sound to strengthen the plot? Which animals did they cast as the villains? What cues were provided to distinguish good guys from bad guys?
Which scenes in this film feel candid, and which ones feel pre-planned? How can you tell the difference?
Learn more about Toque Macaque monkeys.