Children’s films are usually edifying. It’s a pervasive trait in the genre that sees every Disney protagonist journey through some moral challenge and emerge kinder, more accepting or the hallmark ‘true to oneself’. But without these platitudes guiding the protagonists to their better selves, what does a children’s film really look like?
David Alaux has the answer. The Jungle Bunch has come a long way from its origins as a French Children’s series in 2013. It’s a success story for French creators Jean-François Tosti, Alaux, Eric Tosti and Julien Fournet, shifting their animated series to international audiences and finding popularity in the west.
But like many animated series before, the transition to feature length hasn’t been seamless. The Jungle Bunch plays out like three separate episodes rolled into one, with very little backstory or character introduced, and a plot that’s a little too thin to support the elaborate and detailed CGI.
When the evil koala, Igor, escapes from exile and seeks aid of some mercenary monkeys, a plan to destroy the jungle is put into motion. The fate of the jungle rests in a hero group comprised of martial artist animals, The Jungle Bunch, and their mentors, The Champions, as they work together to halt Igor’s plans for revenge.
While the plot sounds developed, there’s a noticeable lack of lore to the world and characters that makes it a little difficult to become interested in the unfolding events. The characters are also so shallow that they fail to provide any moral substance or personality to the progress of the film, creating a mostly apathetic viewing experience for the audiences.
The villain, Igor, literally comes out of nowhere, without context, and his motives are explained through a thirty-second, exposition rich flashback. While Maurice, the penguin who thinks he is a tiger, is given a backstory that is never really explored, the other members of The Jungle Bunch receive only few moments on screen and where they do contribute, their lack of character depth becomes apparent.
But for whatever narrative The Jungle Bunch fails tell, it still looks the part. The animation throughout is detailed and scenic, casting intricate shadows from light and filling the screen with the vibrant colours of jungle life. Every character movement is well placed and natural, and when blended with the many well-choreographed action scenes; The Jungle Bunch remains entertaining, even when the context is lost.
For anyone watching with a child, The Jungle Bunch is likely to be a perfunctory viewing experience that offers little depth or story. But just as Con Air retains its cult status, depth or narrative isn’t everything, and the kids will probably love it all the same.
Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Jungle Bunch releases in theatres 25th January 2018.