Eva walking with her mom and little brother by the pet store desperately wants to have a pet.
Of all the primate family films made in the 90s, Monkey Trouble is the best. Or, maybe just the least worst. We can all agree it’s better than either Dunston Checks In or Ed. Foreign gypsy Azro (Harvey Keitel) performs at the beach with his monkey Fingers (Finster the Capucine), whom he has trained to pick pockets and also enter buildings to steal shiny things and cash. He’s commissioned by some mobsters for a robbery. On a drunken bender, though, Azro makes Fingers feel bad and the little monkey runs away.
Eva and Dodger seated on a part bench.
Meanwhile, little Eva (adorable Thora Birch, age 12) is grumpy. She dislikes her baby brother, who gets all the attention from their mom (Mimi Rogers) and she can’t have a pet because she’s irresponsible. Also, her cop stepfather (Christopher McDonald) has allergies. Walking home one day, though, she meets the capucine and they have an instant rapport! Eva immediately begins digging herself in deep by secretly sheltering the monkey in her room. She names the hairy little lad Dodger, because he likes tiny baseball caps. He pees on her floor, and it’s insinuated that he took a poop in her sink (which is very funny). She lets baby brother in to play with Dodger since he can’t tattle. To her family, it looks like she’s becoming responsible and finally getting along with baby brother. Eva learns all she can about capucines, what they eat, their social habits, etc. During the day, at school, she takes him to a pet shop where she’s friends with the owner lady. Her best friend Katie (Remy Ryan, from Robocop 3) is a blabbermouth, so when Eva refuses to tell this big secret they have a falling out. All important elements.
Eva keeps Dodger a secret from even her best friend.
Azro looks for his money ticket while Eva and Dodger bond. When her father can’t pick her up for the weekend, because of a delayed flight I think it was, she tells lies to everyone and takes the monkey for a weekend reprieve at the old man’s place. The father’s empty house is on the same Santa Monica location where Breakin’ was filmed and where Azro is looking for Dodger. Eva hopes to make some money for groceries (her father’s cupboards are bare). It works, they go shopping, but the monkey steals food. Publically humiliated, Eva discovers, finally, that Dodger is a little thief. She loves the little fellow, though, and begins his deprogramming. Also, Azro finds Eva out and now pursues her. Back home, she hits bottom. Eva is accused of stealing many fine jewels and items at the same time Azro has monkey-napped Dodger. She needs helps, but all the eyes on her are accusing. Alone, she runs away. Fortunately, Dodger is no longer interested in stealing and the mobsters are annoyed. It ends with Eva and Dodger happily reunited (basically) and criminal Azro going to jail.
Eva takes Dodger for a bike ride.
Monkey Trouble is charming, in many ways. Eva is perfectly written, and perfectly performed by Birch. She pulls off the burdens of hiding a monkey well. Keitel is an odd choice for a gypsy villain in a family monkey movie, but he pulls it off as effortlessly as one would expect. The film especially succeeds is in the relationship between Eva and Dodger. It’s just them for long stretches, bonding. It’s sweet, and it pays off in the end. I extra like what the film isn’t. The film is not cynical or patronizing, there are no cheap jokes, the little scatalogcal humor is tasteful, and it isn’t ever boring. A little predictable, sure. Overall, it’s a commendably modest family film. It doesn’t suck at all!
Eva is distraught when Dodger goes away.
Eva wants to give Dodger a bath.
Throughout the film, Eva wears white high top chucks. They’re spotlighted in a fun scene where she’s trying to give Dodger a bath.
Street singers wearing black chucks during the opening credits.
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