Movie Review - Monkey Kingdom (Earth Day)

For every movie ticket sold for Monkey Kingdom during the week of April 17th to 23rd, Disneynature will make a contribution to Conservation International (CI).

The funds will support CI and its programs in Indonesia, Cambodia and Sri Lanka that protect monkeys and other endangered species, restore their forest habitats and support local human communities. This is done in honor of Earth Day, which is Wednesday, April 22nd.

Written and directed by Mark Linfield, the documentary follows a group of monkeys, known as toque macaque, which are unique to Sri Lanka, the island country off the southern coast of India. Linfield follows the monkeys for several seasons. This is the sixth feature released theatrically in the United States from Disneynature. It's in line with the other five in that it focuses on one particular animal.

This one is a little different because the monkeys clash with humans in a more direct way and in a way that couldn't be dangerous. All the others have isolated animals that are far from human contact. Linfield follows the monkeys into the human world, perhaps to underline the comparisons he makes to social status, class structure and discrimination.

Linfield observes that a group of these monkeys in a huge tree has a hierarchy. The higher branches of the tree possess the monkeys who are higher class, the privileged, the royalty or the wealthy. The lower branches of the tree possess the monkeys who are lower class, the poor, the ignored and the hungry. Linfield gives us the most sympathetic, someone who isn't on a branch, someone who is on the ground, a destitute and single mother.

The movie focuses on Maya, a monkey who is impregnated and then left alone. She has the baby named Kip. She then has to protect and feed Kip. The movie is about them finding food and fending off attacks from enemies either of their same species or not. Linfield contrasts Maya's motherhood and her struggle with the luxuries of those on the higher branches.

Things take a turn when an invading group of monkeys upend the class structure of Maya and her tribe. Maya and her tribe are pushed out and instead of the divisions, the monkeys are all put on equal footing. Watching them band together and work as one despite previous discrimination is a fun ride, but it's a wonder if after the movie the class structures were re-established, and if there were still monkeys on the bottom who were mistreated.

Linfield does capture great moments. With the help of narration by Tina Fey, the monkeys are overly cute doing overly cute things. There's some questionable moments like when the monkeys invade a birthday party or an open market. It's another wonder if those moments weren't orchestrated in some way or facilitated by Linfield. I wish the behind-the-scenes footage during the end credits had revealed the interactions or the aftermath of those scenes, but otherwise it's quite entertaining.

Four Stars out of Five.
Rated G for all audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 22 mins.


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