Monkey Kingdom exceeds the animal movie’s status quo

Disneynature‘s Monkey Kingdom is too cute.

I’m biased towards all things Disney, but seeing this movie with my mom on Mother’s Day exceeded my “happiest place on earth” type of expectations.

It starts off with a group of wild monkeys playfully swinging, swimming and looking generally blissful. But the movie is more relatable than it might seem. While a typical live-action animal documentary connects with emotions through a “lost baby” scene or the death of a parent, Monkey Kingdom’s plot proved more sophisticated.

After shots of monkeys pulling each others’ tails and cannon-balling into ponds, the movie catapults into a heart-wrenching story that demanded my adoration, within the first five minutes.

Narrator Tina Fey introduces a kingdom of monkeys living in a world defined by the scaffold of class structure. Part of the emotional connection that I found was within the relatability of the main character’s life: Maya the monkey.

Maya lived at the bottom of the social ladder, and as I sat in the theater, watching her struggle to survive, I only felt more emotionally attached with the introduction of her baby, Kip. Everyone knows that babies are costly, but witnessing a tired mother scavenge for food and yearn for security in the jungle drove that idea home.

I’d never thought about monkeys relating so closely with people other than in the evolution unit in biology class. But walking out the theater feeling like I learned something new is the sign of a good movie.

Disneynature did a fantastic job of capturing Maya and her monkey mates in a non-staged, raw way. Sure, nature is raw and plain and earthy anyway, but the videographers’ offstanding filming shows.

Tina Fey’s narration, for the most part, is spot on. During the beginning of the movie, there were a few instances where the voiceover seemed overdone, but as the storyline progressed, Fey’s insight helped break down the movie’s complexities.

This movie definitely makes my list of “would purchase DVD in the future” and “yet another Disney favorite,” and seeing it with my own mama monkey on Mother’s Day made it even more memorable. See it. Soon, your phone screensaver will be of Maya and Kip just like mine.