Summer of the Monkeys

No, this isn’t about the band that sang Daydream Believer; it’s a refreshingly old-fashioned tale about an independent, strong-willed farm boy named Jay Berry Lee (Corey Sevier) who discovers four runaway circus chimps in the middle of the Great Plainsoand tries to catch them so he can collect the reward that will buy the horse he’s long dreamed of owning. Adapted from the Wilson Rawls novel, SUMMER OF THE MONKEYS has the feel of a vintage Disney live-action drama. Set in 1910 and nicely filmed with period costumes, wagons and steam locomotives, this coming-of-age tale has its humorous side, but it also embraces real family values. Michael Ontkean plays the boy’s father, and Katie Stuart is his younger sister, penning wishes in her diary in her treehouse. When Jay Berry informs her that he’s seen monkeys down by the river, she’s sure he’s just telling another fib, like the ones about a ghost and an Indian chief. But this time, she discovers, her brother is telling the truth. Jay Berry’s quest is beset by difficulties, of course, among them a shotgun-toting moonshiner. But his eventual triumph is raised above cliche thanks to Sevier’s performance as the proud, determined boy.

Suitable: ages 6 – 12

Canada, 1998

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