“The Monkey’s Uncle” is a prime example of Walt Disney’s flair for wacky family comedy, typical of where his studio’s humor was at in the late 50s and early 60s. Set within the environs of an undergraduate college, the movie takes us on a wild, somewhat absurd ride, complete with the teen angst, dating, and academic pressure that any college kid or one-time college kid knows well.
The wackiness is there from the get-go: Midvale College is offered a large donation by an eccentric benefactor with some … peculiar requirements: Midvale can only earn the donation if someone at the school designs and builds a man-powered flying machine. To add to the hijinks, the clock is ticking on this request: If the school is unable to produce the flying machine under a stress-inducingly short deadline, it will lose the donation.
The race to create the flying machine twists and turns in a complicated adventure of the wacky and unlikely. As boy genius Merlin Jones (Disney Legend Tommy Kirk) races to finish the project, hilarious complications ensue, which involve a chimpanzee, a love interest, a goofy team of football jocks, the invention of a subconscious learning device, and an elixir that gives one lucky jock some lightning-fast bicycle-pedaling feet.
Worth noting: the movie opens with a performance of the Sherman Brothers’ title song by Annette Funicello, backed up on-screen by the Beach Boys. From there, the movie launches into comedic bit after comedic bit, never slowing down for a minute. Walt Disney’s willingness to push the envelope of camp and satire might even leave you feeling a bit surprised at his cheekiness.