When it comes to talking animal movies, there’s nothing as popular as a talking dog except a talking monkey.
When it comes to talking animal movies, there’s nothing as popular as a talking dog except a talking monkey. Air Bud spawned Air Bud Entertainment – truly making a business solely out of this brand of animal adventure comedies – which has in turn given us Monkey Up, the timeless story of a capuchin monkey who hocks energy drinks. Forget the tales of struggling and exploited actors; it’s much more entertaining to witness a monkey overcoming these career obstacles, with plenty of “diva moments.” Directed by animal movie extraordinaire Robert Vince, it’s a wild caper with as much energy as a Monkey Up drink and makes about as much sense as a Monkey Up-induced caffeine fever dream.
Purely based on the sheer output of Air Bud Entertainment over that past few years and the amount of pandering to supposed cool things The Kids like to do these days, it wouldn’t be surprising if the script for Monkey Up was written in a day. Likely fueled by some strong energy drinks. Take for instance the numerous selfie and hashtag jokes throughout the movie. It’s as if Vincent and co-writers Anna McRoberts, Kirsten Hansen and Mary Pocrnic used a Mad Libs-style method to insert modern trends into basic jokes.
The very flimsy premise is that Monty, our star monkey voiced by Skylar Astin, left his family at a New Jersey zoo to chase his acting dreams. The fact that he can speak and act is half-heartedly explained with the good ole “monkey see monkey do.” Inspired by his first experience of Shakespeare in the Park, Monty feels like his talents are beyond the cheap commercials he churns out. When his assistant/wrangler, Desmond (David Milchard), tells him about being passed over for a CGI monkey in a forthcoming film, Monty leaves his studio trailer behind and, through a series of forced events, ends up living in a dollhouse. This miniature home belongs to Sophie (Kayden Magnuson), and the two become fast friends, with Monty doing the thing that talking animals typically do in these kinds of movies – namely, encouraging self-confidence.
While Monty helps train Sophie in gymnastics (because an acting monkey knows so much), he also gives dating advice to her brother, Ethan (Caleb Burgess), and writes their father’s (Jonathan Mangum) novel. That’s a lot of human helping for a monkey with a host of his own problems. For their part, these humans don’t help Monty with his acting dreams at all. Instead, they try to foster a love of family in the monkey and help him escape capture from Desmond and the Monkey Up director in a series of ridiculous chase scenes. A talking animal movie necessarily devolves into a wily caper.
Even if it has nothing to recommend it, Monkey Up illustrates the tried and true narrative beats Vince resorts to for each of these furry comedies. The movie features uninspired direction, but what else could you expect. Vince has gone through these motions so many times that little will liven up the basic storyline. The desperate comedic performances are the norm for these sorts of movies geared towards children, but that doesn’t make them any less obnoxious.