You may notice a pattern of terrible reviews surrounding this film and that’s a shame because Phase 4 films is really trying to become a factor in the CG animated feature film world ala Pixar and DreamWorks. The trouble is films like Life’s a Jungle: Africa’s Most Wanted really do the animation industry an injustice and it makes sense that people who put down good money for this (even the $1.30 or so renting it from the Redbox would set you back).
The question then becomes how do films like this come to be and what makes them so inferior to the type of entertainment we’ve come to expect from some of the companies mentioned above? Read on for a closer look into the process and to determine whether or not this one if right for you.
Life’s a Jungle tells the tale of an extremely pampered house dog from England named Pip who goes on tour of Africa with his family. When a rhino charges their open-roof jeep, Pip gets ejected from the vehicle and takes a poorly animated tumble into the wild of the Serengeti.
The core of the story (and its 85-minute runtime) consists of Pip trying to survive the rough and tumble environment while trying to reunite with his wealthy family. To be honest, there’s potential here. One can imagine if Sony Image Works or Blue Sky got a hold of this premise, they could probably turn it into something decent. In fact, a strong argument can be made that a tale not too unlike this has been told through DreamWorks’ Madagascar or Disney’s The Wild and sadly, told much better in either case.
Though the film was produced in 2012, the visuals do very little to aid in the missed-opportunity factor. The character models are extremely stiff, the backgrounds flat and simple and the textures appear to have been lifted directly from an early 2000’s video game. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to discover this film was built upon a machinima system (which, in case you are unfamiliar, is the process of using a video game engine to produce animation).
However, a supporter in the idea that pretty visuals do not a good story make, let’s for a moment ignore the substandard looks of this work and discuss the bigger flaws at hand. For starters, the pacing is awful- to the point where the few decent gags contained (like a flashback demonstrating Pip’s version of playing fetch meant throwing the stick for his human owners to retrieve) drag out until all of the humor is erased. In fact the deliberately slow movements of the characters coupled to long gaps without any spoken character dialog makes the entire film feel like a dream sequence.
The jungle itself doesn’t exactly present the type of challenges one would expect a domestic (and unbelievably pampered) animal may face as well. For example many of the wild occupants break out into a game of football where, it appears, an attempt to mock The Matrix with some bullet-time action becomes hopelessly muddled due to the fact that the whole movie runs in what is, for all intents and purposes, slow motion.
The ending attempts a little heartfelt lesson that again, may have been a bit emotional if not for the substandard animation, lifeless acting and pacing that can coax even the most patient viewer among us reach for the fast forward button on the remote.
Director Robert D. Hanna (who apparently also co-wrote the screenplay) was very clearly banking on the notion that younger viewers would find the talking animals angle enduring enough to forgive all of the crimes in animation this movie manages to commit (many of which become apparent in the first minute of the film). With an estimated budget of around $230,000, one can hope a majority of the funds went to paying the vocal cast which, no exaggeration, consists of 7 individuals as the ambient sounds appear to have been taken directly from royalty-free sound libraries.
In all, it’s sad that there is so little redeeming to report about this film. This represents Prevalent Entertainment Inc.’s second foray into the realm of CG films (the first being the equally despised but slightly more coherent The Prodigy) and it appears as though the high-school project quality has followed them here.
In a way you want these guys to succeed- they are truly the underdogs in what is a multi-billion dollar industry and it is apparent that the company is clearly a passionate group of individuals inspired by the material coming out of the larger animation houses like Pixar, DreamWorks, Image Works Blue Sky and so on. But when it comes to parting ways with your hard earned cash (and keeping youngsters entertained for a couple of hours), you are much better off picking up something from the studios that inspire these guys!
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About the reviewer
Jason Rider (AKA OneNeo on Amazon.com) is the author of the successful children's fantasy novel series The Uncommon Adventures of Tucker O'Doyle from Bellissima Publishing. … more