Movie Review: Monkey Kingdom
Producers: Walt Disney Studios
Runtime: 81 minutes
MPAA Rating: G
EE Critic Score: 8/10
I saw Monkey Kingdom recently on cheap movie night at my local cinemas. I’ve seen a few others of the Disney Nature movies*, and I’ve liked them. They’re interesting blends of nature documentary and classic Disney movie. Let me explain what I mean:
When I first heard of “found footage” movies, I thought they were movies cut together from unrelated footage found by the director. That’s not an accurate definition of the found footage movie, but it is what these Disney Nature films are, or at least what they have been lately. They are personal narratives about real animals, whose lives are recorded and then remixed in production to make an engaging tale. If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, imagine if someone made The Lion King by narrating over footage of wild lions. That’s about what Disney Nature films are.
I’m not sure what to think of this, actually. At some level, it seems dishonest. But I suppose the story generally follows as it likely did in real life, just with some things cut together from different times and places. That’s my impression anyway.
The storyline of Monkey Kingdom follows a Sri Lankan tribe of Macaques, specifically a lower-class female. It’s narrated by Tina Fey, who is capable in the position. (I don’t actually mean that as some backhanded thing. I really don’t know what I’d consider a great narrator. It’s a fairly basic task.) The storyline itself is not very memorable, but I don’t complain about that. I didn’t watch the movie for a compelling story. I came to see footage of wild monkeys living in an abandoned temple. I got that, and more.
The question you should ask yourself, if you’re trying to decide whether to see this movie, is this:
Do I want to see a monkey eat Jell-o?
That happens in one of the scenes showing the monkeys’ visit to the human-populated part of the island. I quite liked those scenes, actually. It gave the monkeys a bit more…reality, I suppose. So many nature documentaries show strange creatures in far-off lands with nothing for the viewer to identify with. This had some episodes with people and cities and that was a nice touch.
The camera work in this film was great. Nice, clear, close shots of wildlife.
I liked this movie a lot. If you like nature movies, you should definitely see this one. Otherwise, it should still be kept in mind as something to stream some night at home.