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Running Time:
1 hour 25 minutes

Rating: G General Audiences.

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
The breathtaking footage of primates in the wild is likely to entertain and amaze animal lovers of all ages.

Monkey Kingdom
This is not a simple documentary. It employs magnificent footage of the monkeys and fashions it into a narrative storyline. The plot centers on Maya, a solitary female at the lowest end of the class system among the animals, who has a child by a newcomer called Kumar before he’s exiled from the group. After a time during which Maya must struggle to raise little Kip on her own, Kumar returns and is accepted by the clan’s alpha male. All finally seems happy on the outcropping of rock the monkeys call home, along with some bears, peacocks and a mongoose.

But a rival clan drives them off the rock, forcing them to flee further into the forest. At this point Maya becomes a leader, since her lowly condition had led her to forage for food much further in the past, and she helps the others avoid predators like snakes and lizards before conducting them to a human village, where they adeptly steal eggs, cakes, vegetables and other delicacies before going back to their home and, under Kumar’s leadership, retaking their rocky home. As the film ends, Maya, Kip and Kumar have won newly exalted status in the clan and all is well.

Much of the narrative is delivered with panache by Tina Fey. The story does have some suspense, but not so much as to disturb younger viewers, and even the sequences of imminent danger are handled with a light touch to avoid becoming too scary for toddlers. Of course most of the footage is devoted to monkeys acting in simian ways that will delight children, who will recognize themselves in some of the critters’ horseplay.

The lead monkeys are such an engaging trio, and the filmmakers are so successful in capturing them in vibrant images, that family audiences are will probably be charmed, if not enthralled . Monkey Kingdom may be awfully insistent in castigating the privileged position of this kingdom’s royalty, who treat their underlings with an air of utter entitlement, but it plays to what people might like to believe about how eventually innate talent and courage will inevitably rectify social injustices. In that respect it might be thought as much a fairy tale as most Disney animated features are.

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