The Jungle Bunch– Film Review by David Minogue
Directed by David Alaux
Written by David Alaux, Eric Tosti & Jean Francois Tosti
Cast – Paul Borne, Philippe Bozo, Pascal Casanova
The Jungle Bunch features characters from the French animated television series The Jungle Bunch to the Rescue (Les As de la Jungle á la Rescousse). Over 100 episodes of the original series have been produced to date and the show also won an International Emmy Kids Award. While an earlier shorter spin off film in 2013 featured John Lithgow as a voice actor for one of the main characters, this new feature length film features no big Hollywood names.
In a jungle paradise that is inhabited by a vast variety of animals, all is peaceful until the arrival of a demented koala bear called Igor who is intent on destroying the jungle. Igor’s reasons for doing so are not revealed until much later in the film. Animals and birds flee all around and the opening scenes provide a manic start where the sides of good and bad are clearly set in place. The Jungle Bunch is heavy on pop culture references such as Igor’s Rambo like arrival into the jungle. These references will be very familiar to many but may go over the heads of the majority of the film’s much younger audiences.
There are two groups of good guys in The Jungle Bunch. The first is a group of animals headed by a tiger called Natacha who are the original defenders of the jungle called The Champs who witness Igor’s first trail of destruction. Early scenes in the film also depict how Natacha becomes the adopted mother of a penguin that she calls Maurice and paints in the coloured stripes of a tiger. Maurice in turn adopts a goldfish called Junior who lives in the most unbreakable goldfish bowl ever made. Junior is like the trusty pet of the film and at one stage features in a sequence very similar to one seen in Finding Dory.
Maurice forms his own group called the Jungle Bunch who band together to stop Igor from permanently destroying the jungle. This group includes a gorilla called Miguel, a tarsier called Gilbert who is the sarcastic brains of the group and a love sick bat called Batricia. While Maurice is the determined hero of the story the rest of the bunch provide most of the slapstick comedy.
The Jungle Bunch is beautifully animated and there is a huge amount of inventiveness in the various things the animals make or how they get out of dilemmas. Igor is a great villain but Maurice is like a child who would drive you nuts if you had to babysit him. He ricochets around the film with boundless energy with Junior in his goldfish bowl firmly under his flipper.
It is obvious how the television series has been such a success but the film is like an extended single episode. It is a rush of chase, rescue and escape scenes. There is one sequence so straight out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom that you almost expect to see Stephen Spielberg’s name in the credits. The film’s target audience is younger children who should find the humour funny but for adults the laughs are intermittent. The film’s ultimate message is to be your own kind of hero and there is a definite environmental awareness to it all too which can never be a bad thing.