Sandcastle Studios has established a significant following over the past generation with the adventures of Jungle Beat. After fifteen years of animated shorts that contain little dialogue, but a multitude of life lessons, it is time for a movie. When considering how to make a full-length feature film out of a beloved animated television show set in the jungle, what do you introduce? Aliens and the most powerful force in the universe, hugs.
For those who have been following the friendship of Munki (David Menkin), the elephant Trunk (Ina Marie Smith), the hippo Rocky (Menkin) and the grumpy hedgehog called Humph (David Guerrasio) over the years, this is your time. Or if you are just hearing about this familiar animal troupe for the first time, this story may be the right thing for your littles to enjoy. The television series does not contain much dialogue, but merely life lessons being taught in little vignettes in the jungle and on the Sahara plain.
Things needed to change to sustain a full-length movie. So it seems to only make sense that the creators would introduce a purple alien named Fneep (Ed Kear). He has been sent to earth to conquer this world, but he seems to have some difficulties. Reluctantly, he turns to the inhabitants of the planet for help and provides them the ability to speak through a special digital translator orb. The timid and incompetent space creature has to enlist the assistance of the unlikely team to get him back to his ship and back home. Along the way, they manage to teach him the value of friendship, emotions and especially, hugs.
For the adults who sit in with their children to watch the film, it may feel like they have seen this film before. The storyline seems to be related to aspects of Madagascar, the quest element of the Ice Age series, a quick nod to Horton Hears A Who and the space-aged interpretation of family dynamics from Home all while managing to make an enjoyable journey for the little ones to escape into the jungles of Africa. The alien component seems to be a bit of stretch for a wilderness tale. Still, the comedic overtones and the familial narrative make it plausible enough.
The frenetic editing will keep the attention of the juvenile minds while incorporating simple truths of the importance of relationships. It does feel like they are pegging together the episodes of the television show with the alien quest as the common thread. This does lead to some pacing issues that can feel a bit lethargic at times, but wait a few minutes and the action will recommence soon enough.
Parents and guardians have little to be worried about with Jungle Beat: The Movie. By maintaining the instructional object lessons from the show, children will be encouraged to build better friendships, ask for help and see the value in getting hugs from friends and family. If you are hoping for ground-breaking cinema, that is asking too much of this film. The adventures with Munki and friends is meant to be a safe and entertaining option for those with little children. Who knows, children and adults may even learn something in the process.