While "Jungle Shuffle" is billing itself as a homegrown Korean production, it needs to be noted upfront that this animated movie is clearly intended for international distribution. Even though a significant portion of the staff are Mexican and the story takes place in Mexico, all of the signs are in English. You probably won't even have access to the Korean dub, and the only hint that this movie is in any way Korean is a sight gag involving a Mexican monkey being taught hangul for some reason.
I laughed at that joke. It was, regrettably, the only funny joke in the entire movie, which is less concerned with humor as it is with an increasingly meticulously inexplicably complicated plot. You've got the humans who want to create a super-sized chicken, the monkeys who want sacrifices, the coati tribe that wants to build...stuff of some sort, the other humans that want to do logging, the mystical bird spirit that just hates humans I guess, the monkey sidekick who wants to be a sidekick, the black jaguar who wants to rescue his wife but goes about doing so in the dumbest possible way...who am I forgetting...
Oh, right, Manu (voiced by Shim Kyu-hyuk-I), is the main character. He's a rebel coati, mostly because he's an obnoxious child who destroys stuff, albeit unintentionally. I'm guessing the obnoxious children in the audience are supposed to identify with Manu. Anyway, he grows up, and has to rescue his girlfriend after having spent a life in isolation. How did he know his girlfriend was kidnapped if he was in isolation? How is she even still his girlfriend when they presumably haven't even seen each other in...months? Years? How long does it take for a coati to reach adulthood anyway?
All right, fine, "Jungle Shuffle" isn't a nature documentary. But there's so many other questions that aren't resolved, mostly because there's so many characters that trying to keep anything straight in this narrative is an exercise in sheer exhaustion. When we do get explanations, they tend to be overwhelmingly stupid and irrelevant. Conflicts are defined arbitrarily and resolved with the same bursts of randomness with which they were created.
And the character designs...for space constraints I'll only address gender. In a jungle filled with dozens of individual designs that we see, exactly four of them are women. We know this because they have eyelashes, make-up, and lipstick. Except for the jaguar who's just pregnant. Three of them are defined entirely in terms of their relationships to romantic partners, one in a profoundly creepy way. This movie is obviously for children. Can we please not gender code them with stupid stuff for no reason?
While this is obviously a movie intended for children, that's absolutely no excuse for you to let your child see it. Even ignoring the bad subconscious message issues, they simply won't like this movie. It's just a giant orgy of massive colors wrapped around an extremely dense plot and more characters than they could possibly hope to keep track of. Just make them draw their own story for one hour and spend the next hour having them explain it to you. Believe me, everyone would be a lot happier.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Jungle Shuffle""
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