Narrated by Tina Fey. Directed by Mark Linfield & Alastair Fothergill. (2015, 81 min). WALT DISNEY
So I was reviewing Disney Nature’s Monkey Kingdom last night when my youngest daughter came into the room and sat with me. After a few minutes, she declared, “Monkeys don’t have any hair where they really need it,” obviously referring to the pink, dangling unmentionables attached to the film’s stars as they run, jump and climb. Because of her matter-of-fact tone, I couldn’t stop laughing for nearly five minutes.
I suppose such a statement stems from the obvious physical similarities we share with our primate cousins. It does seem like someone should venture into the wild to throw some pants on these critters. But those similarities are also what makes Monkey Kingdom a charming little film. Physically and socially, they are very much like us...only fuzzier.
Similar to other films in the DisneyNature series, Monkey Kingdom uses painstakingly-captured nature footage of toque macaque monkeys in order to fashion a plot of sorts. In this case, Maya is a lowly female in the social order of her troop who wishes for her offspring, Kip, to enjoy a better life. Driven away by another evil batch of misshapen monkeys, her troop is forced to venture into civilization to survive before returning to reclaim their home, led by Maya and her new mate, Kumar (Kip's dad).
Being more plot-driven than the average DisneyNature film, a lot of filmmaker manipulation is obvious, especially when these monkeys are raiding homes and shops to feed themselves. While it tends to lessen the impact of Monkey Kingdom as a documentary in the purest sense, these scenes are wonderfully amusing, one notable highlight being the monkeys' city park encounter with a dog.
Regardless of these narrative contrivances and the terrible inclusion of various pop songs (“Theme from The Monkees“...really?), Monkey Kingdom is visually stunning, filled with charming ‘characters’ and amusing narration by Tina Fey. While the film isn’t quite as much fun as African Cats or Bears, this is an entertaining way to spend an evening with your family in front of the TV. And hopefully, your young 'ums won't be too distracted by the unhairy bits.
- FEATURETTES: "Tales from the Kingdom" (an interesting behind-the-scenes short which shows how much patience was required to shoot the film); "On the Set of Monkey Kingdom with Jane Goodall and Wolfgang Dittus" (the latter was a creative consultant on the film); "Monkey Kingdom: The Conservation Story"
- Music Video: "It's Our World" by Jacquie Lee