Truth in film takes another jolly beating in Disneynature's Monkey Kingdom, a documentary-like nature flick with the last-century chutzpah to pass off its marvelous footage of the life of a single-mom macaque as a full-fledged princess story, with three acts, a tearful exile, and her ascent, in the final reels, to the throne. (Oops, spoiler for the anthropomorphized-monkey movie.)
All it takes for our plucky heroine, Mya, to climb to the top of her caste system is to mother her son, to lead her band into the city after it's chased from its rock-pile home by a tougher monkey-band, and then to be the main squeeze of the new alpha macaque determined to take back the home they've lost. The doc calls that home Castle Rock, and this narrative seems just as invented as any involving Starks and Lannisters. The scenes we see are real, of course: These ingenious monkeys harass a mongoose, sneak seedpods from lily ponds, dash over rooftops, and face off with that rival clan. But when they ravage a Sri Lankan villager's kitchen, you have to wonder: Did the cameras just happen to be in there, on the day a little girl's having a birthday party?
Monkey Kingdom is delightful, and it's encouraging that Mya is allowed to be a Disney princess despite breastfeeding in public -- and never making any attempt to cover up nipples like smooshed pink candy corns. But its bending of wild nature to a workaday storyline will confuse and annoy smart kids -- and will do nothing to smarten up the dumb ones, who are already doomed to a life of never being sure when cameras are lying and when they're not.