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Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie
Hey Arnold: The Movie takes place following the end of the beloved Nickelodeon television series which ran from 1996 to 2004. The film brings back a huge cast of fan-favorite characters. The story picks up after the end of the show and it explores Arnold's journey to San Lorenzo to find his long lost parents.
At Arnold's school, his teacher gives the class the instruction to make an educational project to enter a competition to try and win a free trip for the entire class to go visit San Lorenzo for a humanitarian class project. Arnold and his best pal Gerald decide to enter together and they create a project which goes on to win the contest.
Helga continues to admire Arnold from afar, gazing longingly at her secret crush. She tries to help Arnold at every turn as they start their trek into the jungle forests of San Lorenzo. She continues to fall for Arnold without him fully noticing. More hijinks ensue between them.
Grandpa Phil and Grandma Gertie take a backseat in this film story, with the focus of the film being about Arnold trying to find his parents, who were lost in the San Lorenzo jungles. As Arnold looks for his parents by crossing the many perils and dangerous grounds, he gets a surprising amount of assistance from an old friend of Arnold's parents, Eduardo (Alfred Molina). As the story unfolds, some surprises occur as the film creates throwback moments to the classic animated series.
The animation is the greatest strength of this new revival of Hey Arnold. The character designs get some updates but are completely true to the spirit of the original animation. The sleek new updates are so well done. I've rarely seen an animated revival with such great attention given towards staying true to the art style. For the animators work, the job was well accomplished.
Unfortunately, the storytelling is where this revival falters and disappoints. Though the film keeps the same sweet-natured tone audiences came to love from the series, it sorely misses the mark as either a follow-up to the end o the series or as a new conclusion. Individual character moments with the cast of characters shine but where the film really veers wrong is in its focus on Arnold seeking out his lost parents.
Given that the show spent several seasons developing Arnold's close family ties to Grandpa Phil and Grandma Gertie, both of whom took on paternal roles to Arnold, the lack of their characters in as pivotal a way in this film was disappointing. Especially given the realities of many young children having lost a parent or being raised by their grandparents. This was something rarely seen on television and which put Hey Arnold apart from most other children's programming. Creator Craig Bartlett and his co-writers missed the mark with this film's story significantly.
Though the film has charms (and it's certainly a pleasure to revisit these wonderful characters), Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie has an incredibly disappointing ending. It completely veers from delivering a heartfelt ending and instead gives the audience a tidy and convenient closure which offers audiences a sickening fantasy over reality. For a series which always felt so genuine to me, I was truly disappointed.
Presented in the original television broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen. This anamorphic widescreen presentation satisfies in presenting the wonderful art done by the gifted animators. This is a strong looking DVD presentation which manages to do a suitable job presenting the feature.
2.0 stereo Dolby Digital English audio is provided on this release. It isn't the most engaging sound design. It feels standard and almost like an auto-mix. However, dialogue clarity is excellent throughout.
There are no extras on this release.
Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie is a disappointing revival of the classic animated series. One of my favorite animated series growing up has been poorly revitalized with a weakly conceived television revival. The animation is gorgeous and spot-on, some of the character moments do work, but the story is a big letdown. Fans of the series will probably want to see this to decide for themselves but my recommendation is to skip it.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.