×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Summer of the Monkey

There's not much to "Summer of the Monkeys." The family film set at the turn-of-the-century is dripping with old-fashioned values and warmth in the tradition of "The Waltons" and "Little House on the Prairie" and effectively ambles through its relatively cut and dried story. The absence of contemporary resonance severely limits theatrical prospects, but it would seem a natural for TV sales both domestically and abroad that could motivate some modest video movement.

With:
John Lee ..... Michael Ontkean Sara Lee ..... Leslie Hope Grandpa Sam Ferens ..... Wilford Brimley Jay Berry Lee ..... Corey Sevier Daisy Lee ..... Katie Stuart Bayliss Hatcher ..... Don Francks Jobert ..... Andre Therein Toby ..... B.J. McLellan Rose ..... Kim Schraner

There’s not much to “Summer of the Monkeys.” The family film set at the turn-of-the-century is dripping with old-fashioned values and warmth in the tradition of “The Waltons” and “Little House on the Prairie” and effectively ambles through its relatively cut and dried story. The absence of contemporary resonance severely limits theatrical prospects, but it would seem a natural for TV sales both domestically and abroad that could motivate some modest video movement.

Set in an unspecified time in an Edenic rural America, the film’s focus is the near-picture perfect Lee family. Father John (Michael Ontkean) is a hard-working farmer who prays for good weather, his wife (Leslie Hope) is attentive, and their children include the precocious Jay Berry (Corey Sevier) and the crippled Daisy (Katie Stuart). In the nearby town, Gramps (Wilford Brimley) runs the general store.

Jay Berry’s dream is to save up enough money working at the store during summer recess to buy a pony, and he sees his chance to earn some extra money when a quartet of circus monkeys escape into the wilds after a train wreck. The young boy stumbles onto their new found enclave near the farm but capturing them and collecting the posted reward prove to be a bit of a challenge.

Along the way, Jay learns some valuable life lessons that will presumably form the bedrock for his adult character.

While the sentiments are noble, the storytelling is banal and predictable. Script by Greg Taylor and Jim Strain is cookie-cutter clean and shamelessly telegraphs its points. Vet director Michael Anderson (“Around the World in 80 Days”) follows the blueprint closely but can’t get up the steam to add colorful flourishes in the monkeys’ antics, darken the menacing elements or even get better than passable performances from the film’s day players.

The cast is largely bland or cut from a too familiar bolt of cloth. Sevier is an appealing if uninspired youthful lead, and Stuart is rarely called on to be more than decorative. Brimley is effective in the type of role he’s played too often, but Ontkean and Hope strain to give credence to essentially stoic characters.

Pic strives to revive a nostalgia for bygone values but paints a glossy ideal that lacks credibility. It’s difficult to swallow the notion of hard times when the images are pristine and the settings are untrammeled. The nostalgia has less to do with an earlier piece of recorded history than with movies of the past that created blissful, unrealistic portraits of family life as feel good entertainment.

Summer of the Monkey

(FAMILY DRAMA -- CANADIAN)

Production: A BWE Distribution presentation of an Edge Prods. production. Produced by David Doerksen. Executive producers, Doerksen, Ellen Freyer, Chris Harding. Directed by Michael Anderson. Screenplay, Greg Taylor, Jim Strain, based on the book by Wilson Rawls.

Crew: Camera (Alpha Cine color), Michael Storey; editor, Lenka Svab; music, George Blondheim; production designer, Seamus Flannery; art director, Bill Ives; set decorator, Dan Conley; costume designer, Lynda Kemp; sound, George Tarrant; assistant director, Ehud Ellman; casting, Stephanie Gorin , Junie Lowrie-Johnson, Libby Goldstein. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentation), Sept. 12, 1998. Running time: 101 MIN.

With: John Lee ..... Michael Ontkean Sara Lee ..... Leslie Hope Grandpa Sam Ferens ..... Wilford Brimley Jay Berry Lee ..... Corey Sevier Daisy Lee ..... Katie Stuart Bayliss Hatcher ..... Don Francks Jobert ..... Andre Therein Toby ..... B.J. McLellan Rose ..... Kim Schraner

More Film

  • Aniara review

    Film Review: 'Aniara'

    Each year brings an example or three of purported “thinking person’s science-fiction” films, a category that pretty much embraces anything not centered on monsters or lightsaber battles. These efforts are often more admirable in theory than result, but “Aniara” — the first film drawn from Nobel Prize-winning Swedish poet Harry Martinson’s 1956 cycle of 103 [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame' Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying

    It’s been a long year for Marvel fans since the release of “Avengers: Infinity War,” but the wait is nearly over. The finale to the Infinity Saga is here, and while most diehard fans will know to avoid them for fear of spoilers, early reviews are mostly positive. Last year’s “Infinity War” took home an [...]

  • American Made

    'American Made' Plane Crash Lawsuits End in Settlement

    The producers of the Tom Cruise film “American Made” have settled all litigation surrounding a 2015 plane crash in Colombia that killed two pilots. The settlement resolves pending suits in both California and Georgia. A notice of settlement was filed in Santa Monica Superior Court on Monday. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. The [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    Film Review: 'Avengers: Endgame'

    SPOILER ALERT: The following review contains mild spoilers for “Avengers: Endgame.” The culmination of 10 years and more than twice as many movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Avengers: Endgame” promises closure where its predecessor, “Avengers: Infinity War,” sowed chaos. That film — which revealed that the cookie-cutter uniformity of all those MCU movies had [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame': Why a $300 Million Opening Could Be Impossible

    “Avengers: Endgame” is preparing for a staggering debut between $250 million and $268 million in North America alone. Unprecedented anticipation surrounding the Marvel juggernaut has some particularly optimistic box office watchers tossing around even higher numbers, estimating the superhero tentpole could clear nearly $300 million in ticket sales in its first three days. If any film [...]

  • Leonardo Dicaprio Nightmare Alley

    Leonardo DiCaprio in Talks to Star in Guillermo del Toro's 'Nightmare Alley' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Leonardo DiCaprio is in negotiations to star in Fox Searchlight’s “Nightmare Alley,” Guillermo del Toro’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning film “The Shape of Water.” Del Toro will direct the pic and co-wrote the script with Kim Morgan. “Nightmare Alley” is being produced and financed by del Toro and J. Miles Dale with TSG Entertainment, with [...]

  • Ben Affleck

    Ben Affleck to Star in and Direct World War II Caper 'Ghost Army'

    Ben Affleck will star in and direct the Universal Pictures caper “Ghost Army,” based on the book “The Ghost Army of World War II,” written by Rick Beyer and Elizabeth Sayles, as well as the documentary “Ghost Army.” It’s unclear when the movie will go into production as it’s still in development and Affleck is [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content