Film review: Monkey Kingdom (2015)

This is a Disney nature documentary in which Tina Fey narrates the story of a troop of macaque monkeys, focusing on just two of them, Maya and her infant Kip. It appears that macaque troops have a strict social hierarchy in which the people at the top get first crack at all the good food and shelter while those at the very bottom, like Maya, have to make do with what is left over. Not much different from many human societies, really.

But Maya is determined to survive and provide for her son despite all the odds she has faced from birth and the film tells how she doggedly manages to do that even as she has to deal with the harshness imposed on her by the upper classes of her troop and the troop itself faces challenges from a rival troop that seeks to dislodge them from Castle Rock, a prime location nestled in the ruins of the ancient city of Polonnaruwa that was once the capital of Sri Lanka. I have visited those ruins and so that was an added pleasure for me.

When seeing such films, one is impressed at the film makers who have to follow these animals over a long period of time without disturbing them and under sometimes very dangerous conditions in tropical forests that have all manner if dangerous predators.

Putting human motivations onto the animals in order to tell a story may seem a little much. One has to suspect that despite the patience and skill of the cinematographers, some scenes were staged and others were reconstructed in the editing room to fit the narrative. But since monkeys are so much like us in their facial expressions and relationships, this film gets away with it in that it does seem too contrived.

Here’s the trailer.


  1. kevinalexander says

    Putting human motivations onto the animals in order to tell a story may seem a little much.

    Not really. All the motivations are animal-- it’s just that the human animal has the ability to invent stories to explain them away.

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