The Jungle Bunch opts for wide-eyed cuteness over laughs and invention
A MANIACAL koala bear with delusions of grandeur threatens the safety of creatures great and small in The Jungle Bunch.
Based on a hit French TV series, director David Alaux's jaunty computer-animated adventure follows in the paw prints of a menagerie of brightly coloured tales populated by anthropomorphised critters including Zootropolis, Sing, The Secret Life Of Pets and Kung Fu Panda.
Could this be animal magic too? Sadly not.
A simplistic screenplay, co-written by Alaux and Eric Tosti, is light on uproarious comedy and pulse-quickening set pieces, repeatedly opting for wide-eyed cuteness over narrative sophistication and invention.
A centre-piece mine-cart chase, which is animated at a lick as a madcap rollercoaster ride, is curiously devoid of edge-of-seat thrills. The linear plot is simplistic, even for the target audience of pre-teens, and underlying messages of cross-breed cooperation and tolerance have been communicated far more elegantly by other films in the past year. Slapstick and physical comedy can only snare our attention for so long.
Parents who are dragged into the jungle by excitable tykes will be enjoying big cat naps in the dark rather than purring with delight. Thankfully, the tedium lasts a tolerable 87 minutes.
Igor the deranged koala and his long-suffering crab sidekick set the jungle ablaze using time-release explosive mushrooms. A four-strong team of heroes called The Champs comprising Natacha the tigress, Goliath the rhinoceros, Ricky the porcupine and Tony the Sloth rescues innocent birds and animals from the inferno.
Every creature is saved, but at a terrible price to The Champs, and Igor is banished to a remote island with no obvious means of escape.
Many years later, the jungle has regrown and The Champs have disbanded. In their absence, Natacha's headstrong son, Maurice the tiger penguin, forms a new team of misfit protectors called The Jungle Bunch comprising Junior the tiger fish, Gilbert the tarsier, Batricia the bat, Miguel the gorilla, and Al and Bob the toads.
Alas, a koala-shaped ghost from the past returns, flanked by an army of buffoonish baboons.
Igor has a diabolical plan to raze the lush paradise using thousands of explosive mushrooms.
The Jungle Bunch has its sentimental heart in the right place but feathers and fur never convincingly fly in Alaux's picture. The quality of the animation isn't on a par with fantastical fables conjured by Disney Pixar and DreamWorks and that lack of visual sophistication is rudely exposed when projected on to a big screen.
THE JUNGLE BUNCH (U, 87 mins) Animation/Adventure/Action/Comedy/Romance. Featuring the voices of Kirk Thornton, Cam Stance, Andre Gordon, Erin Fitzgerald, Christopher Corey Smith. Director: David Alaux