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Monkey Kingdom

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Monkey Kingdom Movie Poster Image
Tina Fey-narrated monkey documentary is funny, educational.
  • G
  • 2015
  • 81 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Viewers will learn many details about the toque macaque monkeys of Sri Lanka. The movie depicts their social structure, with an alpha monkey and a trio of females at the top (and the protagonist, "Maya," at the bottom). Explains how the monkeys eat, their mating habits, and their obstacles/predators/challenges to survival.

Positive Messages

Family-friendly messages about a mother's ability to overcome obstacles to protect her baby and the responsibility of all members of a tribe to protect one another from external threats. A tribute to motherhood, courage, and the sacrifices parents make to keep their babies safe and well-fed.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The narration personifies the animals, so it's easy to see Maya as a loving, self-sacrificing mother. She cares for her baby, Kip, fiercely. The mean "sisters" also care foremost for their own offspring, and they're willing to fight others to make sure their children are the best fed.

Violence & Scariness

Violent, disturbing sequences of Maya getting beaten and of her newborn being kidnapped as she's driven away. A violent confrontation between monkey clans leaves one monkey dead and others injured (blood is visible). Another monkey falls victim to a predator. One alpha male has a scarred face and a split lip that make him extra scary looking.

Sexy Stuff

Maya is courted by "hunky monkey" Kumar; they're shown interacting, but the mating takes place off camera.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that nature documentary Monkey Kingdom is family friendly overall but does have a few scenes that could frighten preschool-aged viewers. While Maya, the monkey who's presented as the main character of the story, and her baby remain safe, other members of her clan of macaques do die -- one to an alligator and one to a warring monkey clan. There are also tense moments when it seems like Maya's baby will be hurt, and Maya herself is beaten by more prominent monkeys. On the lighter side, there are strong positive messages about motherhood and sacrifice, and -- thanks in part to Tina Fey's narration -- humor and laughs for the whole family. And on an educational note, everyone will learn a good deal about Sri Lankan macaques.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byarieschmarie April 26, 2015

Tremendously upsetting for our four-year-old

The reviews warned that there were parts where the monkeys were in danger that might be upsetting, however what really upset our child was when the protagonist... Continue reading
Adult Written byKatniss04 April 25, 2015


Teen, 13 years old Written byerogers August 8, 2015

What's the story?

Set in Sri Lanka, MONKEY KINGDOM is narrated by Tina Fey and follows Maya, a female toque macaque at the bottom of her clan's social hierarchy. Maya isn't one of the alpha male's preferred mates -- those are a trio of sister macaques who are quick to swat at any monkeys who don't know their place -- but she's still plucky and finds her own way. When "hunky monkey" Kumar visits the troop's habitat -- dubbed  Castle Rock -- during mating season and picks Maya to woo, she ends up pregnant ... but the alpha male banishes Kumar from the clan. After baby Kip's birth, Maya must find a way to overcome her bottom-of-the-ladder social status to make sure her son is fed and safe.

Is it any good?

Nature film experts Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill reteam for another Disneynature wildlife documentary that's sure to please both kids and parents. These types of films do tend to humanize the animal subjects, but that won't bother most young viewers (or many older ones, frankly). Thanks to Fey's winning narration and the compelling central storyline, the documentary has a strong narrative arc. Maya is the ideal "underdog"; she's low-born but doesn't let that get in her way, especially when Kumar and baby Kip enter the picture. It's impossible not to root for her and Kip to survive -- even if that means other monkeys are the ones falling prey to alligators and aggressive rivals.

And the visuals, as always, are spectacular. The gorgeous fig tree, the Castle Rock habitat, the neighboring bears -- it's all shot with a majesty and beauty that showcases everything from the three freckles on Maya's face to the heavy rain during monsoon season to the shady trees where the posher monkeys take shelter. Thanks to Maya's courtship with Kumar, the introduction of the baby, and the rival clan, Monkey Kingdom has plenty of plot. It's easy to watch for both for the story and the cinematography -- a great combination of entertainment and educational value. And if little ones get worried about Maya and baby Kip, just remind them that this is, after all, a Disney movie, and our favorite characters will get their happily ever after.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why wildlife documentaries like Monkey Kingdom are so popular. What attracts families to nature films? Are they more appropriate for kids than other live-action movies? Why or why not?

  • Narrator Tina Fey combines moments of humor and imagined dialogue with facts about the monkeys' lives, habitats, and social structure. Does the balance of humor and trivia work? Which parts do you prefer?

  • Does humanizing animals in movies like Monkey Kingdom make them more or less relatable? How are some of the animals depicted as "good" and "caring"? Or as "bullies"?

  • How does Monkey Kingdom compare to other wildlife documentaries?

  • How does Monkey Kingdom promote courage? Why is this an important character strength?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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For kids who love animals and nature

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