Netflix’s Jungle Beat: The Movie is the latest in a long line of forgettable 3D animated films geared towards kids. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just filled with concepts and characters we’ve seen before — and not at the zoo.
This review of the Netflix film Jungle Beat: The Movie does not contain spoilers. It was released on the platform on May 14, 2021.
For those who don’t know, Netflix’s Jungle Beat: The Movie is a continuation of the popular South African animated series of the same name. With a catalog consisting of dozens of shorts, the series revolves around various jungle animals as they get into hilarious predicaments. However, while the film keeps that basic idea and sees the return of some fan-favorite characters, it feels foreign to the source material.
Jungle Beat: The Movie follows a monkey named Munki, an elephant named Trunk, a rhino named Rocky, and a hedgehog named Humph as they encounter a stranded alien named Fneep. What they don’t know is that Fneep was initially sent to Earth to conquer it. While he doesn’t want to let his species (known as the Scaldronians) down, the relationship that he builds with his new friends eventually eclipses his desire for domination.
A lot of what makes the original show so enjoyable is the fact that the animals can’t speak. Thanks to a literal plot device that Fneep carries, all of the animals in the film can understand each other. Now, I’m not saying that I hated the decision to give the characters voices. On paper, it’s a smart idea, plus it makes the film easier for its target audience to engage with. I feel that because it abandons the foundation of the series’ humor, it feels like its own thing. Realistically speaking though, kids — and the parents who ended up watching with it them — won’t care. However, keeping that in mind, there are better films they could be watching.
If you’ve seen films like The Lion King, Lilo & Stitch, Madagascar, or even Home, there’s a good chance you’ll know what to expect from this. Whether it be the talking tropical animals or the alien stranded on Earth, this film is comprised of the best parts from other children’s films. Even the film’s core theme about the importance of family is carbon copied. Despite coming from all different walks of life, learning to love one another, and forming a surrogate family, the journey of our characters feels more orchestrated for an obvious happy ending than organic.
No pun intended, but the film is only truly fun when our characters get into monkey business. For instance, there’s this one sequence where they encounter a group of wildebeests and have to figure out a way around them without triggering a stampede. The climax also stands out because it features the animals realistically freaking out and wreaking havoc on a spaceship they end trapped aboard.
Now, I know that I am not the target audience for this film and that, once again, things like the plot or whether the animals’ talk will not matter to the people who will ultimately watch it. But, even though it could be better, it ultimately entertains, and that’s never a bad thing.