HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Disneynature: Monkey Kingdom
HTS Overall Score:87
Disney is back on top with yet another foray into the wild adventures of cute fuzzy animals. Aimed directly at the younger audience in an effort to introduce them to the wonders of nature, the Disneynature series focuses on what it does best. Cute animals, gorgeous photography, a celebrity narrator to engage the audience, plenty of adorably named animals that are given human characteristics and breezy, uplifting pop music to set the mood. We’ve seen the formula repeated throughout the 8 movie series, and while it may not be up to the level of “Planet Earth”, “Monkey Kingdom” never pretends to be in the same league, instead focusing on creating a narrative that will allow kids to gain a taste for what lies beyond.
Being a macaque monkey in Sri Lanka is a lot like being a human, in many ways. Like humans, they prefer to live in packs, and create a hierarchy of sorts in order to survive. As with all the other Disneynature films, we get to focus on a handful of these monkeys today, and the main protagonist being a low tier monkey named Maya. Maya has had it a bit rough all these years, being the lowest on the monkey totem pole. She has to fight for scraps to survive and deal with the snotty nature of the pack leaders. While most monkeys can never rise above their station, Maya’s life takes a change for the better once she meets a handsome young male Macaque named Kumar.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=53601[/img]Kumar is a rising buck in the macaque world, trying to make a name for himself, but is soon driven off by the overbearing Alpha, Raja. However, not before he’s mated with Maya and given her a little baby son named Kip. Being the lowest of the totem pole certainly doesn’t lend itself toward ease in raising a son. While the other mother’s, higher in the social pecking order, have help from the others, Maya has to rough it herself to feed and care for her baby son. After being driven from their home at castle rock by a roving band of monkeys, Maya and her lot very well may change for the better. Raja is no longer the reigning Alpha as a result of his lack of leadership, and Kumar has the chance to step in and take charge, leading them through the jungle of suburbia, and finally back to castle rock once more. There, he and Maya have a chance to reform the clan, this time with the two of them at the top of the pile.
“Monkey Kingdom” isn’t wildly overbearing with themes of deforestation, running the monkeys out of their home and social responsibility. Instead it focuses on the lives of the monkeys themselves, in a charming and light hearted way. The whole purpose of the film to make kids (and even some adults) squeal with glee at the adorably little fellas, and use anthropomorphizing in order to gain an emotional connection. While I always role my eyes at the idea of attributing human characteristics to animals, it actually works pretty well here, keeping you staring intensely at the screen, wondering what’s going to happen next to the highly intelligent little creatures.
Tina Fey was really the only weak link to the picture here. Her constant narration would have been more than acceptable, but she tried a bit too hard at putting words in the monkey’s mouths and making them a bit too “hip”, if you know what I mean. It’s never awful, or truly annoying, but the exclusion of her diatribe would only have made the movie better.
Rated G For General Audiences
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=53609[/img]These Disneynature releases are basically nothing but pure eye candy, and “Monkey Kingdom” is a stunning example of how beautiful nature can be. Shot 100% digitally, the image is about as pristine and perfect as you can possibly get. Shot outdoors with plenty of natural lighting, the wonderful outdoor landscape is resplendent with all types of bright forest greens, monkey beige’s and deep earthy browns. Clarity and fine detail are about as perfect as you can get, razor sharp and so photo realistic that you almost believe that you could reach out your hand and touch the paw of the monkeys. Black levels are deep and inky, showing no signs of crush or greyed blacks, revealing every bit of shadow detail that is available. I noticed a brief 3 second glimpse of banding around the 45 minute mark, but it was only once and so very brief that you won’t notice it unless you’re really looking. Disney knows that these nature documentaries strive off of amazing visuals, and “Monkey Kingdom” is a wonderful reminder of just HOW beautiful the world is.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=53617[/img]Even though it’s not a wham, bam, boom action track, “Monkey Kingdom” is a delightful auditory experience for everyone. Shot on location in Sri Lanka, the 360 degree field of sonic immersion is night perfect, with a wonderfully energetic pop score that feels light and airy at all times. The front sound stage is crisp and clean, with Tina Fey’s narration playing front and center for the majority of the time. Although Tina takes up a large portion of the audio track, the surrounds are active with the squawking of monkeys, the rustling of leaves underfoot and all sorts of other ambient jungle noises to keep those speakers busy. The mains share some serious weight with all sorts of “monkeying around” to compliment Tina’s narrative abilities and there’s even a goodly bit of LFE to create a fully rich and multilayered audio experience.
• Tales from the Kingdom
• On the Set of Monkey Kingdom with Jane Goodall and Wolfgang Dittus
• Disneynature Monkey Kingdom: A Conservation
• "It's Our World" Music Video
• A Special Thank You from Disneynature
With its 8th Disneynature film under its belt, Disney has once again proven that it can bring nature documentaries to kids without pandering of seeming too fluffy. We get to see lots of adorable little monkeys and gorgeous eye candy demo ability on the disc itself, leaving it a fully capable documentary for adults and children alike. I could have done without Tina Fey’s overly “hip” narration, but overall “Monkey Kingdom” is a very satisfying Disneynature documentary and certainly more energetic and fun than many other similar films. Recommended for adults and children alike.
Starring: Tina Fey, Lotta Monkeys
Directed by: Mark Linfield, Alastair Fothergill
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English 2.0 DD, Spanish, French DD 5.1
Runtime: 81 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: September 15th 2015
Buy Disneynature: Monkey Kingdom On Blu-ray at Amazon
More about Mike