Boasting names usually associated with films for adults--e.g,. executive producer Ridley Scott and co-stars Harvey Keitel and Mimi Rogers--MONKEY TROUBLE is a kiddie curiosity. Even so, it's ho-hum at best--far from the worst of its kind, but even farther from the best.
Disney child star Thora Birch (PARADISE, HOCUS POCUS) plays Eva, the product of a broken home living with her mom (Rogers) and her stepdad (Christopher McDonald), an LA cop. On alternate weekends, she stays with her airline pilot dad (Kevin Scannell). Vying for attention with two younger
brothers, Eva feels neglected; she'd like a pet, but her stepdad's allergic. Enter Gypsy thief Azro (Keitel) and his pickpocketing, cat-burglar capuchin monkey (top-billed Finster), who burglarize Eva's home.
Some big-time crooks want to use Azro's monkey for a big job. However, when Azro loses his temper once too often, the monkey scribbles an illegible note and runs away to live with Eva. The girl falls big-time for the mischievous monkey, whom she names Dodger, but hides him until she can convince
her mom to let her keep him as a pet. Eva proceeds to retrain Dodger out of his thieving habits. So after Azro manages to steal Dodger back, he's embarrassed when the monkey refuses to steal for his new employers. A last-minute chase rescues Dodger from a life of crime and places Azro safely in
the custody of Eva's stepdad--who, having overcome his allergy as a result of contact with the monkey, allows the girl to keep Dodger.
Beneath the monkeyshines, MONKEY TROUBLE makes some serious attempts to deal with issues of growing up in a modern multi-parent household. None of the parents are idiots, and Eva is a believable character living out a kid's fantasy. At the same time, the movie pays some attention to the
day-to-day realities of keeping an exotic pet like a capuchin monkey--so kids seeing MONKEY TROUBLE will understand that it's not a toy. While Keitel's Azro borders on stereotype, the actor musters his considerable skill to give the character some depth and dimension, coming up with something that
resembles Fagin from Oliver Twist (the monkey's name is probably no accident). In short, MONKEY TROUBLE tries to send generally positive messages to kids. If anything, it could actually have benefitted by being a little less earnest and a little more fun. Kids in the audience seemed bored with the
slow-moving plot, co-scripted by director Franco Amurri (whose Italian hit DA GRANDE inspired the American hit BIG) and Stu Krieger. Nor did they seem particularly enthralled with Birch, who typically brings more energy than charm to her performance. On the other hand, they were engaged by the
well-choreographed climax and went ape whenever Dodger was in the spotlight. Indeed, even in competition with Rogers and Keitel, Finster earns his top billing. For the sequel, he'll undoubtedly have his own trailer and bananas flown in fresh every day from Costa Rica.
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: PG
- Review: Boasting names usually associated with films for adults--e.g,. executive producer Ridley Scott and co-stars Harvey Keitel and Mimi Rogers--MONKEY TROUBLE is a kiddie curiosity. Even so, it's ho-hum at best--far from the worst of its kind, but even farther… (more)