Monkey Trouble

Monkey Trouble is a family oriented comedy about Dodger, a Capuchin monkey who had once belonged to petty criminal, Shorty. Dodger has been trained to steal money, jewels, and everything else imaginable. While performing yet another robbery in a suburban neighborhood, Dodger climbs into a window and meets a young girl, Eva Gregory. The two become inseparable as Eva hides Dodger in her room, lying to her parents who have forbidden her to keep any pets in the home as of her step-father is allergic to animals. Meanwhile, Shorty is desperate to recapture the monkey so he can put him back to work in his crime ring. In the process of escaping from Shorty, Eva and Dodger both learn that crime and lying do not pay. They mend their ways and Dodger becomes a permanent member of the Gregory family.

  • Starring: Thora Birch, Harvey Keitel and Mimi Rogers
  • Director(s): Franco Amurri
  • Producer(s): My Pet Productions
  • Screenwriter(s): Franco Amurri, Stu Krieger
  • Distributor: New Line Cinema
  • Release Date: Tuesday, February 22, 1994

Featured Animal Action

As can be expected where a monkey is one of the main stars of the film, animal action is throughout. Actually, four different monkeys played the part of Dodger, each of them trained to perform different actions. Also, in addition to the trained monkeys who worked in the film, puppets and fake monkeys supplied by the special effects and prop departments were utilized to enhance the illusion of the monkey's on screen behavior. American Humane was on the set throughout filming. Additionally, during a five month period prior to filming, AHA monitored training and preparation of the monkeys for certain tricks they had to master. An opening scene establishes Dodger, the monkey, working a crowd with his owner, Shorty, at the beach. The monkey tips his hat, receives money, bows, jumps into a man's arms and back down. The crowd thinks Shorty and the monkey are doing the old organ grinder/monkey routine for loose change. They don't know that Dodger is really pick pocketing watches, jewelry, wallets, etc. for Shorty. The monkey does this routine several times with various people throughout the film. These are simple actions for the monkey, who was responding to visual cues from his trainer. In another such scene the monkey's tail explores a man's trouser pocket, hooking and removing his wallet. In this and other similar close ups, a fake tail is used. There are many scenes of the monkey climbing up trees and performing different actions like chasing a squirrel, jumping down on people, jumping onto houses and buildings, and just hanging from branches and playing. These were easy for the monkey, as trees and heights are their natural habitat. For the scene with the squirrel, both monkey and squirrel were simply running to their respective cages, responding to the calls of their trainers. In a scene where the monkey jumps down on a female jogger, the jogger was one of the monkey's trainers. As for the many scenes involving roofs and ledges, these were shot in cuts, utilizing low level sets on a sound stage for the shots depicting the greatest heights. In addition to pick-pocketing and climbing up trees and buildings, there are several other actions the monkey performs repeatedly throughout the movie. These include opening doors, sneaking around, hiding behind doors, under a bed and other places, opening drawers, searching for loot, examining loot and putting it in a cloth purse, getting into and out of Eva's back pack, jumping into Eva's arms and hugging her, as well as general running and scampering. There is a scene where Dodger hangs by his tail, then swings upward to avoid being hit by a yogurt container, which splatters all over the window. This was shot in separate cuts, with no danger to the monkey. Next, Shorty cocks his foot to kick Dodger, missing him as the monkey dodges, just in time. Shorty then grabs him by the nape of the neck, shoving Dodger's face into a letter to read. This scene was shot in cuts. The actor does not really kick near the monkey. The neck grab is done with a fake monkey. The monkey's face is not really being pushed into the letter, but the letter is actually being moved toward the monkey's face. Other actions in Shorty's mobile home include knocking two Scotch bottles to the floor, scribbling on a piece of paper with a pencil and stuffing the paper into an envelope, running out a door and into a back alley and darting under parked cars. The scenes were all shot in cuts. The monkeys were responding to cues from their trainers and were rewarded with food. In the alley with the parked cars and, indeed, in all other scenes in streets, the police blocked both ends from any traffic, insuring the monkey's safety. After the monkey first escapes from Shorty, he darts out from behind trash cans and onto a bed of a truck, which then pulls away. He waves at the truck driver then jumps into a florist's truck while both trucks are waiting at a red light. When the florist's truck drives off and comes to another stop, Dodger jumps off and hides under a parked car. A dog on a leash sniffs around, then backs off. Dodger cautiously comes out and scampers up the nearest tree. These were filmed in cuts. The vehicles were not moving when the monkey was in the truck, and the monkey was not in the same scene with the dog, as they were filmed separately. When Eva is initially shown on her way home, there are some mild scenes with dogs. Eva and her friends stop to look at puppies in a pet store window where she and a bulldog on a leash fawn over each other. Scenes utilizing the fake monkey for simple action include Eva and Dodger riding a slide at a playground, Dodger's hand reaching out of Eva's knapsack to take a woman's coin purse, Dodger's tail pulling Eva's little brother, Jack, by the ankle, causing him to fall, and Dodger being pulled from under the bed by his ankles. A scene where the monkey swings puppies in each hand was shot in cuts using the fake monkey and two puppies in halters. The puppies were comfortable and under no pressure. Another scene using a fake animal involves the real monkey with a fake snake. Eva uses it to scare Dodger into getting into the bathtub. Actually, the monkey was trained with the fake snake and was not afraid of it. He was merely responding to the trainer's cue. In a chase scene involving Shorty, Dodger and Eva at the beach, Dodger hides under a box. When a dog pulls the box away, the monkey is gone. This was done in cuts. The dog and the monkey were not together. Next is a shot of a snake charmer with a ten foot Boa Constrictor. Again, the monkey was not present for this. Then, on the boardwalk, Dodger is on a bike and baby carrier. This was done in cuts using a fake monkey for most of the shots. For the quick cuts of the real monkey, the trainer ran alongside, off camera, for a few feet at a slow speed. Next, Dodger takes a wild ride on a kite. This scene was, again, shot in cuts using the fake monkey for the shots showing height and distance. For the close ups, the real monkey was secured to a kite, with a harness, which was held ten feet off the ground by reinforced steel cable. His trainer was right up there beside him and there was no danger. Another scene shot in cuts shows the monkey dropping from the kite onto the baby seat of Eva's bike. The fake monkey was used for this, with the trainer gently tossing the monkey approximately two feet or less, onto the moving bike, while running alongside, off camera. The same procedure was followed for a similar stunt with another rolling baby carrier in the chase scene. In the scene where Shorty's mobile home crashes, the monkey in not in jeopardy. He was not involved in this stunt. Dodger then scrambles out of the skylight on the roof of the mobile home. He jumps into the cab of a truck in the next lane and then out of the other window of the truck. This scene was shot in cuts. The vehicles were not really moving in the scenes with the monkey. For a scene where Dodger fires a gun for Shorty, the scene was done in cuts, using the fake monkey's hands on the gun for the close up, and then the real monkey dropping the fake gun. The sound of gunfire was added later. In one of the last scenes, a boy tries to lure Dodger away from Eva, using a lizard for bait. This was shot in cuts using both a real and a fake lizard. The real lizard and the monkey were never together.