My 8yo son is not a big movie guy, but he has been dying to see “Monkey Kingdom” ever since he saw a preview for it months ago. This kid is a nature lover through and through. He’s constantly rattling off facts about animals and bugs. “Mom, did you know ladybugs play dead when they feel threatened?” (I did not. It’s true. I checked his facts.) So off we went to the theatre, just the two of us, to see the movie.
All I knew about it was cute monkeys with Tina Fey narrating. Good enough for me! I was not prepared for a storyline. But there was one: in the jungles of South Asia, troops of macaque monkeys live among the ruins of ancient temples. (Shades of “The Jungle Book.”) Did you know monkey communities have a social hierarchy? Well, they do. At the top of the fig tree is the king monkey and his minions, and at the bottom are the lowly monkeys who have to eat the leftover fruit that falls to the ground.
The story is about one low-born monkey, Maya, who strives to make life better for herself and her son. A single mom! Struggling to feed her child! In the face of adversity and scary-looking giant lizards! AND, there’s a love interest. And mean-girl moms who make life tough for Maya. And battles against marauding troops of attack monkeys. It’s gripping, I tell you. I was glued to the screen. And not just because those baby monkeys are So! Darn! Cute!
The scenery is unbelievably gorgeous. It took filmmakers 3 years to capture all the footage. But the story is what makes it memorable, and dare I say, perfect for Mother’s Day. Maya is resourceful and clever. When the mean moms steal her caterpillar patch, does she curl up and cry? No, she does not. She ventures into the uncharted territory of the lily pond and dives for seed pods. Did you know monkeys could swim? I didn’t!
When the monkeys are [spoiler alert] forced from their home on Castle Rock, Maya leads her troop into the city and bravely finds new food sources. (Birthday cake! Street meat!) And when the king monkey chases away her suitor, does she give up? No, she does not. She continues to get stuff done, live her life, and provide for her family. Just like every mom I know. Females are strong as hell, to quote the “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” theme song. (Funny show, coincidentally created by Tina Fey. Is there anything that woman can’t do?!)
There’s a twist at the end, which I won’t reveal because you should totally go see the movie. Who knew monkey and human moms had so much in common? I left the theatre with a heart full of joy and a belly full of popcorn. A date with my boy, a good movie, and validation that yes, a loving mom makes all the difference in a child’s life.
Happy Mother’s Day, moms! You deserve it, even if you don’t pick nits off your offspring and fight off 7-foot lizards to bring home dinner.