Top 10 Movie Monkeys

Its a week of Monkey Madness, with Project Nim & Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes opening… we look at 10 other chimp movies…

There are two primate films out this week – Project Nim, which tells the story of a scientific experiment that took place in the 1970s to see if a chimp could be taught sign language in order for humans to communicate with another species, and The Rise of the Planet of The Apes, which tells the story of Caesar, the chimp who will go on to be leader of Ape City and how he became so gosh darn clever.

All this monkey madness got us thinking about our favourite monkeys on the big screen, so here – in no particular order – they are…

Abu – Aladdin
Abu is our hero’s faithful companion in the Disney animated classic Aladdin. He is a kleptomaniac and slightly more hard hearted than Aladdin, allowing the romantic hero to really shine. He is loyal to Aladdin and pretty darn funny, especially when he is turned into an elephant by the Genie and is so startled by his reflection that he climbs a tree to get away from it. He is based on Abu the Thief in the 1940 film The Tale of Baghdad, and while he cannot talk, he chitters away in a manner that Aladdin can understand.

King Kong
The gorilla monster Kong has appeared in many films over the years, but his best outing is still the original 1933 film. Kong is a resident on Skull Island along with other giant animals such as a plesiosaur, pterosaurs, and dinosaurs. He is captured by Carl Denham – the leader of an American film crew – and taken to New York, where he is displayed as the Eighth Wonder of the World. In an attempt to protect Ann Darrow – a woman who was offered to him as a sacrifice, but who he develops a friendship with – he climbs the Empire State Building, where he is shot and killed. Poor old Kong. The movie is considered a classic today and Willis O’Brien’s motion stop animation that created the monster was a huge inspiration to special effects guru, Ray Harryhausen.

Elijah – Being John Malkovich
In Being John Malkovich, Lottie (Cameron Diaz) has a real love of animals. The apartment that she shares with her boyfriend Craig (John Cusack) is packed with dogs, cats, lizards and a chimpanzee called Elijah. Elijah may not be able to talk, but he is seeing a shrink who believes that his acid stomach is caused by his feelings of inadequacy at being a chimp, and when Craig ties Lottie up, it is Elijah that frees her. Hurrah!

Suzanne – Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Jay and Silent Bob rescue Suzanne the orangutan as they help an animal liberation group who turn out to be jewel thieves. The duo become very fond of Suzanne, and when she is stolen from them they journey to Hollywood to save her… Again. There are times when it seems that Suzanne is smarter than the men who have sworn to protect her – especially Jay – but their love for her is pure and the friendship between the three is actually rather touching.

Curious George
Curious George is the pet of The Man in the Yellow Hat, and together they get into some great adventures; usually caused by George’s inquisitive nature. Curious George began as a series of children’s books, created by husband and wife team George and Margaret Rey. The film was released in 2006; it featured Will Ferrell as The Man in the Yellow Hat (who was named Ted for the movie) and was Universal’s first feature length animated film since Balto in 1995. The film was praised for its calmness and faithfulness to the original books. In 2010 it was announced that Illumination Entertainment is working on a live action/computer animated version of the stories.

Puff – Human Nature
Obsessive scientist Nathan and his girlfriend Lila discover a man who has been living in the wild and was raised by apes. Nathan decides to train the wild man – who they name Puff – in the ways of the world, but this soon leads to disaster as a love triangle forms between Lila, Nathan and Puff. The film is told in flashback as Puff testifies for his part in the murder of Nathan. OK, so Puff is not technically an ape or a monkey, but the film is an incredibly silly farce and a lot of fun. Within weeks Puff (Rhys Ifans) is able to tell the difference between a salad fork and a fish fork and of course it is only a matter of time before he gets the girl and they run off into the wild together.

King Louie – The Jungle Book
King Louie is the king of the monkeys, and such is his desperation to be human, that he kidnaps Mowgli and demands he teach him how to make fire. Jazz trumpeter and vocalist Louis Prima voiced King Louie, and his song I Wanna Be Like You is still one of the most beloved Disney songs.

Joe Young – Mighty Joe Young
The original 1949 film Mighty Joe Young is scarily reminiscent of King Kong. Joe is taken from his home in Africa to be a performer in a New York nightclub. The novelty wears off, however and it is not long before he goes on a rampage through the streets of New York. The film was not particularly well received at the time, but has developed a cult following over the years. Disney remade the film in 1998 starring Charlize Theron.

Rafiki – The Lion King
Rafiki – the wise mandrill – is as the shaman of Pride Rock. After the death of Simba’s father, Rafiki finds the young lion and summons Mufasa’s ghost in the sky. Mufasa tells Simba he must return to Pride Rock and take his place as the king. Rafiki is playful and mysterious – and perhaps a little bit mad – but he is kind, loyal and gives Simba the advice he actually needs to hear. Haven’t we all got a friend like that?

Jack – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Jack the monkey is named after Captain Jack Sparrow in an attempt to annoy him by his old enemy Captain Barbossa. Jack the monkey is very similar to Abu from Aladdin in a lot of ways, he is kleptomaniac and chitters in a way only he can understand. The comedy between Jack Sparrow and his monkey counterpart is actually pretty funny, and Jack looks right at home on the shoulder of the scoundrel Captain Barbossa.

Words – Brogen Hayes