Hey, hey they're monkeys. People say they monkey around. And this innocuous kidpic won't put anybody down.
In the early 1900s, a train carrying a French circus act derails in Oklahoma, and a bewildered bunch of performing chimps scamper into nearby woods. Jay Berry Lee (Corey Sevier), a mischief-prone 12-year-old farm kid, glimpses the exotic animals, but nobody gives him much credence until a poster
goes up advertising $85 in reward money for the monkeys' safe return. Jay wants to buy a pony for himself, so he goes about trying to trap the creatures, despite the disapproval of his strict parents (Michael Ontkean, Leslie Hope). The crafty primates foil one lure after another, even trashing the
Lee homestead, for which Jay gets blamed. He runs away from home to stay with his sympathetic grandpa (Wilford Brimley), and finds another, more surprising ally in Bayliss Hatcher (Don Francks), a feared moonshiner whose corn-mash still has become the monkey's habitual hangout--alcoholic Hatcher
thought he was hallucinating the impossible critters. Jay studies up on the escaped monkeys and even learns to pronounce their French names, but it takes a cataclysmic storm (that kills Hatcher) to bring the beasts to heel. Jay finds them huddled in a cave, one monkey injured, and he leads them
back to his farm for tender loving care. The circus trainer arrives and gives Jay the reward money, but the boy has reconsidered his priorities. Instead of buying the horse, he puts the $85 toward an operation for his crippled sister (Katie Stuart).
SUMMER OF THE MONKEYS is a minor time-passer, painless except for juvenile lead Sevier's occasional overemphatic thesping and some syrupy sentiment. Calgary, Saskatoon, and Saskatchewan stand in adequately for the Plains States, and the 1910 ambiance is nostalgic and appealing--sort of a "Little
Monkey House on the Prairie." The primates themselves, although still clad in their big-top tutus most of the time, never break character as escaped trained animals; no superhuman feats of car-driving, markmanship, or rescues, as is too often the temptation for moviemakers in material like this.
The feature is based on a 1976 novel by Wilson Rawls, whose dog tale Where the Red Fern Grows was turned into a highly-profitable independent production, repeatedly re-released throughout the regional US in the 1970s in "four-walling" theatrical engagements. SUMMER OF THE MONKEYS, for its part,
mainly played festivals and cable markets in 1998 but received a wide distribution on video via the 1000-lb. gorilla of children's entertainment, Disney.
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- Released: 1998
- Rating: G
- Review: Hey, hey they're monkeys. People say they monkey around. And this innocuous kidpic won't put anybody down. In the early 1900s, a train carrying a French circus act derails in Oklahoma, and a bewildered bunch of performing chimps scamper into nearby woods.… (more)