Monkey Kingdom – Blu-ray Review

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Set in the majestic country of Sri Lanka, Monkey Kingdom follows the macaque, Maya, as she goes through an underdog story of forbidden love and social climbing.

Yes, you read that right: Social climbing. The film does a great job showcasing that these group of monkeys live under a class system similar to humans. Like the class system of feudal Japan, once you’re born into a particular class then you’re stuck there for life. The leader of the group is Raja, the alpha male of the clan. Under him are his three queens, otherwise known as the sisters. The three sisters control the day-to-day activities of the group and are very spiteful and unpleasant. Together they control and eat from a giant fig tree and they always get first dibs on anything in the jungle. Meanwhile, the lower classes scrounge for whatever scraps they find at the bottom of the tree.

What makes Disneynature films so engaging is how they try to create a narrative out of the footage they captured in the wild. Maya’s underdog story is very similar to Cinderella in the way that the very likable Maya is treated by the “wicked” sisters. These sisters treat the clan like dirt and are pampered by the lower class monkeys. However, Maya survives by being very smart, resourceful and scrappy. Co-director Mark Linfield smartly structures the narrative to tell Maya’s story of repression, struggle, and triumph. It’s the kind of story that all humans can relate to.

Tina Fey (NBC’s “30 Rock”) narrates the film and does an excellent job of doing it with her somewhat sarcastic and funny commentary. No one can deliver a line like “Come on, Kumar. Play it cool man” like Tina Fey. However, some of the lines that Tina Fey says might make some eyes rolls. Both Linfield and his co-director Alastair Fothergill do an incredible job capturing the beautiful country of Sri Lanka. From the macaques’ home — dubbed Castle Rock — to the ruins of an ancient Sri Lankan city, the cinematography is quite jaw-dropping. It’s not quite BBC’s “Planet Earth” but it is still quite striking.

Monkey Kingdom is an engaging film that makes you realize that our primate cousins are more alike than we think. Maya’s story of a single mom doing whatever she can to take care of her son despite her lower class situation is very relatable. While the film’s docu-fiction narrative may detract some nature documentary purists, it certainly makes Monkey Kingdom a movie that all families can enjoy.

Movie rating: 4.5/5 atoms
NR 4_5 Atoms - A-

Video
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Monkey Kingdom is presented in a 1080P MPEG-4 AVC encoded video with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The contrast is phenomenal in the film and it showcases the film’s naturally lit, outdoor settings. The whites in the lightened settings never bloom, while the blacks are rich and never crushed. Also, the colors are absolutely stunning as the lush jungle and earthy palette looks both natural and lifelike. From the macaques’ fur to Sri Lanka’s foliage, the details are crisp and refined. Of course, I would expect nothing less from a Disney and Disneynature Blu-ray release.

Video rating: 5/5 atoms
NR 5 Atoms - A

Audio
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Monkey Kingdom is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio mix. The audio mix does an amazing job of making Tina Fey’s narration the focal point of the mix, yet never drowning out the atmospheric soundscape of the jungle. The rear speakers do a great job providing the jungle’s environmental sound effects. The LFE output is understandably almost non-existent, but it does provide audio weight whenever it’s needed. All in all, the audio is as impressive as the video itself.

Audio rating: 5/5 atoms
NR 5 Atoms - A

Special features
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• Tales From The Kingdom
• On The Set Of Monkey Kingdom with Jane Goodall and Wolfgang Dittus
• Disneynature Monkey Kingdom: The Conservation Story
• “It’s Our World” Music Video Performed By Jacquie Lee
• A Special Thank You From Disneynature

Monkey Kingdom special features contain 3 behind-the-scenes featurettes, a music video, and a promo for Disneynature. It’s always interesting to see how cinematographers were able to capture some of the up close and personal shots of the wild animals. Although it was great to see how the shots were captured in Tales from the Kingdom, it felt as if there was more to be said in the featurette. It’s definitely a featurette that needed a series of videos onto itself. What also was interesting is seeing what kind of good Disneynature’s Monkey Kingdom donations are going towards with Monkey Kingdom: A Conservation Story. The founder of Conservation International, Dr. Sanjayan, breaks down the good that they’re doing in Southeast Asia and how Disneynature’s donations helped. Other than that, the rest of the special features are a bit lacking. Seeing Jane Goodall and Wolfgang Dittus were interesting but forgettable. Also, the music video addition is unneeded as well.

Special features rating: 3/5 atoms
NR 3 Atoms - C


Overall, Monkey Kingdom is a fantastic film that both educates and entertains. The video and audio presentations are first-class, but the lack of depth in the special features section will leave you longing for more.

Overall rating: 4.5/5 atoms
NR 4_5 Atoms - A-

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