Well, it’s 2015 and that means there’s a new DisneyNature documentary and this one is even better than 2014’s Bears, which I quite liked. This movie focuses on a large group of monkeys that live in abandoned ruins in the jungles of South Asia and, in particular, on one female monkey, Maya, and her struggle to survive in the harsh social structure of the monkey kingdom and raise her young baby at the same time. This movie was really just unbelievably entertaining and moving at the same time. The film renders Maya and her child in really great strokes; it’s hard to miss the fact that Maya is essentially a single mother, the male monkey that fathered her child having drifted on to greener pastures before the child was even born. Yes, I know, documentary purists, this is just Disney imposing a narrative. Shut up; it’s a compelling narrative and it’s just fine with me. The film also explores the surprisingly complex social structure of the monkey colony and I was really quite surprised at how deeply the film got into this element and how it was able to play into the overarching narrative of Maya and her baby. The film has several bravura sequences. A scene in which the monkeys invade a small house on the outskirts of the jungle and absolutely demolish a birthday party is raucous and hilarious and a climactic battle between Maya’s group and another group of monkeys encroaching on their territory is genuinely thrilling and exciting. At the end of the day, I walked out of the documentary feeling a connection to these monkeys; sure, I know, anthropomorphizing is bad, but it’s undeniable that these intelligent creatures have something along the lines of interior lives, even if they’re completely different from ours and I’m all for that message spreading through the world. And ultimately, I just found myself really moved, surprisingly so, by Maya’s story of a single mother’s struggles and ultimate triumph in harsh circumstances. I’m not a guy who really thinks monkeys are particularly cute so I wasn’t sure how I’d take to this movie; well, DisneyNature continues its surprising renaissance with this instant classic. 4 stars.
tl;dr – DisneyNature’s excellent doc examines the fascinating social structures of a group of monkeys and tells the effecting story of one mother monkey and her new baby at the same time. 4 stars.