A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although heavy-handed and predictable at times, this tale of a country boy who discovers four runaway circus monkeys offers some tender moments and a few pleasant surprises. Adapted from the novel by Wilson Rawls. The promising story is treated with excessive earnestness, however, and only the music, which is downright goofy at times, shows any sense of humor. The movie's biggest disappointment is the monkeys themselves. For circus performers, they're just not very entertaining. Younger children might prefer something with more laughs. Older kids and preteens will get swept up by the chimp-laden drama. Teenaged rebels may find themselves identifying with the main character.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In SUMMER OF THE MONKEYS, Jay Berry Lee is dead-set on getting himself a pony until he stumbles on the hiding place of four trained chimpanzees who have fled their derailed circus train. When a reward is posted for the monkeys' safe return, Jay tries to capture them before the local bullies beat him to it. Aside from the monkeys' pronounced lack of cooperation, the biggest obstacles in Jay Berry's way are a stern mother, an ailing little sister who refuses to take him seriously, and Bayliss Hatcher, a rifle-toting old drunk who won't stand to have meddling boys on his property. Each of these obstacles winds up teaching the restless boy a thing or two about loyalty, responsibility, and courage.
Is it any good?
This movie has its share of monkeys, but we're also forced to deal with the belligerent and unlikable main character, Jay Berry, his limping sister and rigid mother. The script fails to flesh out these characters and leaves us wondering what made them the way they are. Lending a degree of dignity to the proceedings are Michael Ontkean as Jay Berry's subdued and kindhearted father, and Wilford Brimley as Grandpa Sam, the crusty old voice of reason.
But a few good actors can't overcome the movie's biggest disappointment -- the monkeys themselves. For circus performers, they're just not very entertaining. Mostly they sit around, occasionally throwing in a tired back flip or two.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: October 30, 1998
- On DVD or streaming: January 14, 2003
- Cast: Corey Sevier, Leslie Hope, Michael Ontkean
- Director: Michael Anderson
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Wild Animals
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- MPAA explanation: all audiences
- Last updated: September 19, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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