THE LEGENDARY GIANT RETURNS!
The front cover art of Image Entertainment's DVD release of Kong: Return to the Jungle proudly proclaims that it offers STATE-OF-THE-ART CGI ANIMATION! Let's get this straight right off the bat: yes, the animation is CGI but no one is going to mistake it as "state-of-the-art." Animation fans need only to look at the awkwardness of the images on the DVD art to see that this is hardly a revolutionary production.
What Kong: Return to the Jungle offers is an action-heavy romp that reflects the typical inanity of the output of its studio: BKN. Obviously, it's modeled off of the legendary beast from the silver screen - and based upon the copyright date, it's pretty clear that it's trying to capitalize on Peter Jackson's big budget remake of King Kong from a few years back. The CGI, comparatively, is choppy and low-grade, sure, but if you came upon it some Saturday morning on a children's cable channel, it would suit its purpose. In other words, I could see little kids getting caught up in the bright colors and kinetic cartoon violence of this program, for a while anyways.
Kong: Return to the Jungle appears to be a continuation of Kong: The Animated Series, which I'm completely unfamiliar with. The movie's producers assumed their audience wouldn't be, so a flashback sequence in the first third of the film helps to set up the premise. It appears that a Dr. Jenkins joined an expedition to Kong Island (similar to how it's presented in the original King Kong feature from the 1930's) many years ago where she encountered the original Kong. She saved a hair sample and decades later she took the DNA from that hair and merged it with DNA from her grandson(!!) to create the blue-hued version of the goliath that's featured in this movie. Dr. Jenkins and her grandson - now an annoying surfer dude stereotype - hang out with Kong on Kong Island along with the younger Jenkins' rich dumb friend and a warrior woman. Kong Island is a secret, though, but in this feature, a hunter captures Kong (and the other dinosaurs and creatures of Kong Island) and transports them to New York City, where they run amuck.
Kong: Return to the Jungle is pretty simple stuff, both in terms of animation and storyline. There's no real attempt to make some postmodern nods to the adults here. Several musical numbers, sounding like generic pop music from the 1980's, are scattered throughout to stretch the runtime.
It should be noted that the movie is also available on a 5 disc collector's edition of Kong, reviewed for DVD Talk by David Cornelius several months ago. I have a feeling that this is just the 5th disc of that set separated out and repackaged alone as this release. If there are any Kong fans out there reading this, that's the release I would recommend they check out. Considering this fact, I'll go with a Skip it recommendation for this DVD.
Image Entertainment presents Kong: Return to the Jungle with a full screen image. The back cover art reveals that this was a BKN production, so I'm guessing that this 1.33:1 aspect ratio reflects a television exhibition of some kind. As is typical with CGI animation, the image looks sharp, with strong colors and details - though some artifacts were evident, especially in scenes involving a lot of motion.
Two audio options are available here: English and Spanish. Both are Dolby Digital 2.0. I didn't have any qualms with the English track I listened to, which was strong and vibrant.
No subtitle options appear to be available.
The menu system offers a choice between English and Spanish, which is a nice idea, but given that the only options are Play and Menu, this choice seems superfluous on this release. No extras are given.
Kong: Return to the Jungle would be relatively inoffensive fare if you came upon it on a kids cable channel somewhere - and it'd probably keep little kids entertained for a while. However, given the disc's lack of features and the fact that this 79 minute movie is also available on a 5-disc Kong collection along with its corresponding cartoon series (which fans of this material should definitely prefer), this particular release can be skipped.