Jungle Beat: The Movie (official feature competition, director: Brent Dawes) is a typical „wacky talking animals” CGI film for children. You know what I’m talking about, there have been a lot of them; the majority of family-friendly animated films produced worldwide are probably in this genre. The animals speak and behave exactly like humans, and at least half of them are over the top motormouths; there is a lot of falling, jumping, chasing and other similar slapstick hijinks; in the end there is a heartwarming lesson about the importance of friendship and/or family, acceptance of outsiders and/or the triumph of underdogs.
Jungle Beat: The Movie contains all of the above, but it does have one fresh take on the subject matter: the animals’ ability to speak, induced by a purple extraterrestrial, is a plot point in itself, and the sense of wonder the characters have about it is rather charming. This, of course, raises some philosophical questions: did the animals always have a frustrated desire to communicate through speech, but without the ability to express themselves?
The story revolves around the aforementioned alien’s attempt to conquer planet Earth, and the open arms welcome he receives from a group of overly excited jungle animals. (Another philosophical question: isn’t this tale about the colonized welcoming a colonizer a bit disturbing if you think about it too much?) The animation is pleasingly colourful and cute, and the film overall is harmless, sweet and good-natured, but there is just not enough narrative there to fill a feature-length production; most scenes go on for too long. I’m happy to report that there is no dance party at the end, though.
If the target audience for Jungle Beat is younger children, Old Man: The Movie (Contrechamp competition, directors: Mikk Magi, Oskar Lehemaa) is instead aimed at the young adult viewers who would also enjoy stuff like South Park or Robot Chicken. A stop-motion concoction of relentless insanity, Old Man: The Movie keeps you in a constant state of asking yourself „What the hell am I watching?”
I’m not saying it as criticism, either: that’s exactly what this kind of movie needs in terms of pacing. There really isn’t time to be bored by a joke that’s too cliche (are we still making fun of hipsters, vegans and Millennials?), or grossed out by one that’s too vulgar, because the film moves on very quickly to the next thing, and the next thing might be something quite funny indeed, or simply deranged enough that you almost have to admire the filmmakers for going there.
The titular Old Man is a potato-faced dairy farmer who is visited by his similarly potato-faced grandchildren for summer holidays. It’s difficult for the city kids to adapt to country life, especially when they have to go on a quest to prevent the Old Man’s cow from exploding. Some of the events that follow will make an exploding cow sound as mundane as a cheese sandwich. My quarantine partner enjoyed this film a lot more than I did, and laughed a lot more, but I didn’t hate it either: not knowing what to expect was refreshing.
The 2020 Annecy International Animated Film Festival takes place online until June 30th.