A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Monkey Up is a live-action family comedy about a talking animal -- in this case, a monkey named Monty that's become a celebrity energy-drink spokesman. Unlike many talking-animal movies in which the animals can only speak to one another, Monty can speak to humans and aspires to a serious career in acting. There's some slapstick physical comedy and bathroom humor (monkey poop, of course), as well as the use of the sexist term "toots." Despite positive take-aways related to communication, hard work, and more, there are also iffy messages about whether it's solely a mom's duty to be on top of her home life, even when her spouse isn't working and spends lots of time at home, and about relying on others' efforts to help yourself get ahead/succeed.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
In MONKEY UP, there's one known speaking monkey in the world -- Monty (voiced by Skylar Astin), who's a minor celebrity because he's the spokesman for the titular Monkey Up energy drink. But Monty isn't interested in shilling for commercials; he wants to be a serious actor. When he finds out that a director plans to use a computer-generated monkey for an upcoming movie instead of considering him, Monty decides to head to director's New York City office and convince him that he's the right simian for the job. Along the way, Monty ends up in the Hartz Toy Store (think FAO Schwarz), where he gets cozy in a luxe doll house. The next morning, Monty wakes up in the Andrews house, where the doll house has been transported. Mrs. Andrews (Erin Allin O'Reilly) is the toy company's new president, and her daughter Sophie (Kady Magnuson) believes Monty is her new pet. Monty quickly befriends Sophie and her older brother, Ethan (Caleb Burgess), both new kids in town, helping them with problems big and small.
Is it any good?
Talking animal movies are usually pretty harmlessly formulaic, and this one is, for the most part, no exception. But Monty is a bit edgier than other talking animals, calling women "toots," making egotistical claims about his abilities as an actor (his trainer needs to remind him that he isn't a Shakespearean actor; he merely watched Shakespeare in the Park), and telling everyone what to do. He basically helps the boys in the Andrews family cheat their way to success by dictating all of Ethan's lines to him via microphone (the boy is starring in a version of Romeo and Juliet) and literally writing all of Mr. Andrews' manuscript (about a monkey, of course), which ends up earning a lucrative advance. Sophie, meanwhile, actually practices to get better at gymnastics.
And Mrs. Andrews? Well, there's the movie's biggest problem. While her husband is home napping (and somehow, ludicrously, believes he has written pages and pages about a monkey's coming-of-age story), Mrs. Andrews is off running Hartz Toys. Despite her obvious business success, she's depicted as a domestic mess, putting a carton of eggs in the oven, forgetting to pick up her daughter at gymnastics (even though she had told her husband to do that), and seeming perpetually conflicted and guilty about not being there for every little thing her kids are doing -- again, even though her husband isn't working and is in fact napping or jogging most of the time ... not to mention unknowingly allowing a monkey to babysit his children. That's not a message that may seem obvious to kids who'll be too busy laughing at monkey poop jokes, but, parents, beware: This monkey comedy has some off-putting, if subtle, sexist messages.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of talking-animal movies. Why do you think there are so many of them aimed at families and kids?
How does Monkey Up compare to other talking-animal movies?
What does the Andrews family learn from Monty, and what does Monty learn from them?
What messages is the movie sending about gender roles? In two-parent homes, does one have more obligation to stay on top of everything than the other?
- In theaters: January 22, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: February 2, 2016
- Cast: Skylar Astin, John Ratzenberger, David Milchard
- Director: Robert Vince
- Studio: Air Bud Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Wild Animals
- Run time: 83 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some rude humor
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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