by Vicky Roach
EVEN for a G-rated animated adventure, The Jungle Bunch is fairly tame.
But the feature-length film adaptation of a popular French children's television series, which screens in Australia on the ABC, is lively enough to keep very young audiences entertained.
And their chaperones will be temporarily diverted by moments of absurdist humour - such as the homage to Mission: Impossible's vault heist scene involving a penguin who thinks he's a tiger disguised as a red-bottomed monkey suspended from the ceiling by toad's tongues (you really have to see it to fully comprehend.)
Maurice (Kirk Thornton) was adopted, as an egg, by a fierce tigress.
Natacha (Dorothy Ahn) has retired from the animal-rescuing business herself following the death of one of her gang.
As an adolescent, her Emperor Penguin son defies her wishes, striking out on his own to set up a new team of heroes - Maurice might look like a flightless bird, but he has the heart of a wild cat.
His own son, Junior, a Tiger Barb, accompanies him wherever he goes in an impregnable goldfish bowl that Maurice tucks under one flipper.
Despite his cuddly appearance, the martial arts master is more than capable of holding his own in a fight, although there is a touch of Paddington Bear's sweet naivety in his wide-eyed approach to the world.
Maurice and his Jungle Bunch, which includes Miguel (Cam Stance), a simple-minded gorilla, Gilbert (Dre Gordon), a fiendishly intelligent tarsier, a bat (Erin Fitzgerald) and two toads, successfully keep the peace - until his mother's nemesis, an evil koala named Igor (Keith Silverstein), re-enters the fray with a dastardly plan to destroy the jungle with his red fluorescent mushroom bombs.
To save the animals, the two generations must find a way to overcome their differences.
The storyline is predictable and the film has at least one ending too many but the preposterous characters work so hard for their laughs it feels rather churlish to judge them too harshly.
The Jungle Bunch opens tomorrow.
THE JUNGLE BUNCH (G)
Director: David Alaux
Starring: Kirk Thornton, Dorothy Ahn, Dre Gordon
Running time: 97 minutes
Verdict: Absurd animal adventure