Director: David Alaux
Starring: Paul Borne, Philippe Bozo and Pascal Casanova
Release Date: Out Now
The Jungle Bunch rescue many people but sadly they cannot rescue their audience from their own film. Based on the characters from popular French animated series ‘Les As de la Jungle a la Rescousse’, The Jungle Bunch centres on the penguin Maurice, who sets up a hero squad to protect the jungle against the wishes of his tiger mother Natacha. Sadly, the TV series does not translate successfully into a feature length film.
The Jungle Bunch opens in a dark, distressing manner. ‘The Champs’, lead by Natacha, are trying to save the inhabitants of the Jungle from what is essentially a terrorist attack by a bomb wielding koala, Igor. One of the Champs is burned alive during the rescue attempt in a traumatic sequence that rivals the death of Bambi’s mother. Natacha disbands The Champs because of this death, having exiled Igor to a desert island, and raises her son Maurice as a tiger.
Many years later, Igor escapes his island prison and returns seeking revenge. Maurice has assembled his own ragtag team of heroes, The Jungle Bunch, to protect the jungle. I think they’re supposed to be viewed as lovable underdogs, however the majority of them are irritating and thinly sketched characters. The Jungle Bunch and the newly reunited Champs butt heads over who should take down Igor, and events unfold from there.
It is hard to give a short synopsis of the plot and this is a flaw of the film in general – it simultaneously tries to cover too much while not providing a great deal of depth.
It baffles me that even in a film filled with anthropomorphic characters that include a martial artist sloth and an island that houses species such as kiwis, penguins, rhinos, tigers and porcupines all in one place (seriously, where is this island supposed to be geographically?!) it is still inconceivable to have more than one female member of each hero group. Not only this, but The Jungle Bunch’s token (though excellently named) female Batricia is in love with the egotistical, selfish tarsier Gideon.
It is frustrating viewing.
Films such as Zootopia (Disney, 2016) and Inside Out (Pixar, 2015) have proven that films aimed at children can deal with complex and difficult issues with sensitivity and empathy. The Jungle Bunch references themes such as terrorism with clichés and regressive stereotypes. The Jungle Bunch contains multiple references to other films, such as Mission: Impossible and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, so it is clear that thought was placed into some details of the film.
Unfortunately, this is not overtly evident in most aspects of the film.
There are a few humorous moments (though multiple attempts at them) that younger audiences will enjoy. The animation is skilled and of a very high calibre, but that does not make up for the pitfalls in story and characterisation. The plot alternates between being convoluted and relatively boring. This combined with the long running time will fail to keep the attention of younger audiences, while their unfortunate adult supervisor will most likely be counting down until the end.
Written by Amy Clarkin