A Monkey’s Tale

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: Both the heroes and the villains are equally unsightly.
dir Jean-François Languionie
scr Norman Hudis, Jean-François Languionie
with voices of John Hurt, Michael York, Michael Gambon, Rik Mayall, Matt Hill, Sally-Anne Marsh, French Tickner, Diana Quick, Shirley Anne Field, William Vanderpuye, Paul Dobson, Janyse Jaud
00/UK-France 1 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
The press notes triumphantly proclaim that A Monkey's Tale is "the most ambitious animated feature to have been produced outside of the Hollywood studios," bringing together "a top British animation team with an impressive British voice-cast." Well, I suppose that's notable enough. But wouldn't you think that in the four years they took to make this film someone would have commented on how ugly the characters were? Not to mention how spectacularly lame the script was?

Set in a mythical forest in which monkeys have been divided into two tribes by a flood or something, the story centres on a tree-top Woonko called Kom (voiced by Hill), who falls to earth and meets the earth-bound Laankos. These grounded guys think they're far more civilised, wearing Merchant Ivory robes and quoting Shakespeare (!) as they talk about the G-string-clad savages who live in the foliage above them. But both tribes are ruled by superstition and fear, and it's up to Kom, his new girlfriend Gina (Marsh) and a kindly professor (Gambon) to save the earth-kingdom from the evil Chancellor (Hurt), who with his Mr Toad-like sidekick (Mayall) is plotting to overthrow the King (York).

It's not bad enough that the story is appallingly stupid, without any emotion, suspense or humour. The character design is so unattractive that you actually flinch when anyone enters a scene. And what's the deal with a film called A Monkey's Tale in which the monkeys don't have tails? All right, I'll say something nice: At least the animation is mostly hand-drawn; the watercolour backgrounds give you something lovely to look at while avoiding the hideous foregrounds. And the tiger looked OK. And the unmemorable songs (including a closing theme by, er, Westlife) aren't completely awful. But this is substandard Saturday-morning animation that will only appeal to the very young and undemanding. I wouldn't inflict it on anyone.

[PG--some violence] 21.May.00
UK release 26.May.00; US release 26.Jan.01

~~~~~~~ ~~ ~~~ ~~~~

Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.

Send in your review!
© 2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall