Based on a popular French kid TV series, The Jungle Bunch (Les As de la Jungle) is as far as one can get from your average big budget Hollywood animation as possible. With its hit and miss gags, which one suspects were mostly lost in translation, and a frankly baffling storyline, this French animation does a good enough job in keeping its intended audiences entertained, but is ultimately left lacking in the imagination stakes.
In its second cinematic outing since the released of the 2011 featurette The Jungle Bunch: The Movie, the film partly succeeds in being innovative by sticking to its gallic roots in a world dominated by American franchises, but whether that’s enough to get people excited by this charming yet slightly misjudged production remains to be seen.
Directed by David Alaux, who also co-wrote the screenplay alongside brothers Eric and Jean-François Tosti, The Jungle Bunch tells the unlikely story of Maurice, a crime fighting penguin, who along with his friends intends to maintain order and peace to the jungle against evil Koala Igor, just like his mother did before him. Having been raised by a tigress, Maurice also feels like a tiger inside and has even taken to disguising himself as one in her honour. As Igor is hellbent on destroying the jungle once more, the group of friends hatch a plan to stop him at all cost before more animals are hurt.
Alaux et al offer a hugely convoluted storyline and a series of gags which sadly fall mostly flat, but perhaps the most baffling of all is the the level of violence shown on screen to a mostly young audience. As a character is seen dying in a forest arson within the first 10 minutes of the movie, we are suddenly left under very little suspicion about what we can expect from the rest. With a confusingly meandering plot-line, The Jungle Bunch is perhaps not for the faint hearted amongst our youngest. Its popularity across the channel can perhaps attest to how each culture deals with death and violence on screen differently, however it remain unclear as to how the makers intend on selling this as a franchise to the American or British markets without making some fundamental changes to their storytelling.
The Jungle Bunch is likely to do well with first time viewers, but it’s hard to see how it can survive in a market which relies primarily on repeat viewings, be it in the cinema or at home. Perhaps not the worst animation of the year, but one that needs to understand its overseas audiences a little better in the future. Although not without fault, The Jungle Bunch is nonetheless a refreshing break from its sleek American counterparts. Not completely disappointing, but nothing to write home about either.
The Jungle Bunch is released on September 15th.