Monkey Kingdom

Monkey Kingdom

2015, G, 81 min. Directed by Mark Linfield, Alastair Fothergill. Narrated by Tina Fey.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 24, 2015

Disneynature’s latest foray into the real-wild world puts the Marx Brothers’ Monkey Business to shame in terms of endearingly comic toque macaque antics and motherly love. Longtime wildlife filmmakers Linfield and Fothergill take us into a colony of our Darwinian, distant relatives that reside amid a pile of deep-jungle ruins in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. Let the cuteness and anthropomorphic overload wash over you and blow the dust off your more homo-sapient qualities, and you’ll find yourself marveling not just at the filmmakers’ utterly remarkable (and, during a shoot that took two and a half years, exceedingly patient) camerawork and storytelling abilities, but also how “human” these little furballs can seem.

Probably the most difficult job of any nature filmmaker is the generation of a coherent plot from what is, essentially, a bunch of nonhuman nonactors behaving in remarkably humanlike ways. And it’s here that the filmmakers excel, crafting an exciting, hilarious, and just plain insanely watchable narrative around toque macaque mama Maya and her newborn Kip. Stuck at the bottom of the hierarchy of the macques that live among the ruins (alpha male Raja is at the top), Maya is forced to scavenge food from the jungle floor while jerkwad Raja and his harem cavort high in the treetops and atop various ancient stone heads of Buddha. Class war, anyone?

Maya’s troop is eventually overrun by an invading group of roving macaque maniacs, which forces the resourceful mother-and-child team to use their jungle smarts to save their fellows from obliteration. It’s probably not much of a spoiler to say that tuft-headed Maya eventually finds her way to the top of her troop.

The filmmakers know what makes a visually stunning shot, and one sequence of the macaques flipping out and feasting on a slo-mo flight of airborne termites in the wake of a drenching monsoon is surreal and sublime in equal measure. All in all, this is one of Disneynature’s best in-country outings so far, so much so that you’re very likely to leave the theatre feeling downright giddy and more connected to the world than before. Hey, hey, it’s the monkeys that rule this particular spot on the Earth, and watching them monkey around is a G-rated trip and a half. And with Tina Fey’s enthusiastic narration, you might even learn something, too.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Mark Linfield Films
Chimpanzee
The Planet Earth filmmakers turn their cameras on an orphaned chimp.

Kimberley Jones, April 27, 2012

Earth
This nature film is derived from the Planet Earth miniseries and is edited with an eye toward the kid-friendly audience.

Kimberley Jones, April 24, 2009

More by Marc Savlov
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
Welcome back, Mister Wick: Everyone's favorite merciless killer gets more human and more intriguing

May 17, 2019

Carmine Street Guitars
Spend time with the quiet artisans who make the instruments that rock & roll is built upon

May 10, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Monkey Kingdom, Mark Linfield, Alastair Fothergill

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle