Monkey Kingdom is the latest, the 8th to be exact, in Disney's nature films under their appropriately titled department Disneynature. The documentary follows Maya, a toque macaque, as she moves her way through the very real social hierarchy of the macaque monkey, while fighting for survival, not only for herself but also for her newborn, Kip.
This movie starts off strong and is actually a fantastic film for both children and adults. Much like the other Disney nature films, it is not afraid to show the dark and very real side to nature. The harsh reality of the animal kingdom, and life, isn't something that should be shown and known about (no, I don't mean to rhyme), but it needs to be shown in a very controlled manner. This kind of film is something that kids, and parents, should watch. You learn so much about the macaque, the mating habits, social skills, and the hierarchy, as the film delves into specifics of the monkey kingdom. You also get beautiful sweeping shots of scenery and the stunning Southeast Asia land. Props to Mark Linfeld and Alastair Fothergill, as well as the camera crew, for capturing something that many people won't ever get to see in person.
Despite the praise, there are a few drawbacks to the film. The writing was good and was very informational, however in order to keep the kids interested they went a little too cartoonish. Also having Tina Fey feign a scared or sarcastic line took away from the realistic feel. Piggybacking off that, Tina Fey did a good job as the narrator but they maybe could have gone with another voice. I feel as though John C. Reilly, who narrated Disneynature's Bears, might actually have been a better narrator than Ms. Fey. Now, please, don't get it twisted, I love Tina Fey as a writer and as an actor, but her voice just didn't mesh with the storyline. She did a fine job, but she didn't captivate me like a narrating voice should.
The other drawback I had with the film is that is seemed to drag. While the film's running time is only 81 minutes it felt a lot longer than that. I don't know if it was because of the fact that there was no air conditioning or what, but the movie felt like it just kept going and going. I actually started to drift off during the last few minutes and had to keep myself awake.
The negatives aside, the movie is still a very good film for kids. Maybe you'll show it to your child or a friend's child and they become interested in nature and the environment and that can never be a bad thing. A film like this isn't going to win any awards or get VICE-type coverage, but it is still a fun watch. I would wait until they are at least eight and older and can sit still for a while without catchy music to keep them entertained. Any thing younger than that and you might be pushing your luck. There were a few 6-7 year olds and they seemed to be pretty intrigued, but still there were some kids running around. This is a good educational DVD/Blu-Ray purchase on Black Friday, but I wouldn't rush out to purchase it or rush out to watch it in the theaters.