Monday, April 13, 2015
There's no proselytizing in Monkey Kingdom, the latest in Disneynature's conservation-minded documentaries. Unlike the teachers' guide Disney devised to go with it, the film never mentions that the toque macaques it depicts, who live in a picturesque sacred ruin in a Sri Lankan jungle, are part of an endangered species. Instead, the doc aims to cultivate empathy and admiration for these intelligent and highly social beings by filming them at home in their world—and by focusing on Maya, a sweet-faced underdog, and her baby, Kip, whose huge earlobes, gigantic eyes, and squeaky cry make him the epitome of helpless innocence, Gremlins's Gizmo minus some of the fur.
The anthropomorphizing that has so often marred Disney's depiction of animals is mercifully subdued, but not entirely absent. The main plotline, Maya's ascension to a higher status within the troop, appears to be the result of a lucky mating (she teams up with a young male who joins the troop as a low-status outsider and works his way up to the top), but the script repeatedly describes it as her "fight" to "beat the odds." There are also times when you may wonder if some drama was created in the editing room. Read the rest in Slant Magazine