We had the opportunity to see a preview of Disneynature Monkey Kingdom a couple of nights ago. Monkey Kingdom revolves around Maya (the key monkeys are given names), a toque macaque in Sri Lanka with a moptop of hair and a gentle disposition. The film begins with The Monkees theme song (“Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkees”), which sets the movie on a lighthearted note.
Maya is at the bottom of the monkey caste system, which can mean scouring the ground for fruit that has dropped from the tree. The upper echelon of monkeys get to sit at the top where the ripest fruit is, and then monkeys in the lower hierarchy can be located at the bottom of the tree – if they are lucky. Living quarters are the same, with Maya nearly always out in the elements, even during monsoon season. Fortunately, we do find out later that monkeys can increase their lot in life – though it isn’t easy.
A narrative is created for this group of monkeys, with Maya the star of the show. Maya does find a partner, who quickly is chased away from the group – but not before Maya is pregnant. Maya gives birth to Kip, who is an adorable baby that Maya dotes on. There is a scene where Kip and Maya are out swimming, and a water moniter shows up. Both Maya and Kip escape, although another monkey does not. Scenes dealing with death are not graphic, but they do let viewers know about the harsh realities that animals face in the wild. Even monkeys can be cruel to one another, both within their own group and especially when dealing with an outside monkey group. Disneynature has done a fantastic job at imparting that information to viewers without it being overly sad.
One of the questions I had during the movie was answered during the credits. The filmmakers inject themselves into the process. They aren’t just observers, but the monkeys know they are there, and sometimes play on the film equipment. A couple of scenes seem to have been staged for fun, including a birthday scene (and it is a lot of fun).
Monkey Kingdom is a learning experience for families, but also an enjoyable film.
Monkey Kingdom is narrated by Tina Fey. The film is rated G.
Mousesteps Grade: A-