Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Jungle Beat - fun for the kids that will have the adults laughing too

Family / Animated
65 min
RATING: 10/10 

I'm always on the hunt for films or shows my kids will enjoy that I'll enjoy too. There aren't many that fit that bill, but Jungle Beat sure does. This is comic genius at its best!

The videos are all 5 minute stand alone pieces featuring one jungle creature. Our favorite is probably the giraffe, or the turtle, but the bee, monkey and hedgehog are popular too.

While the videos do have sound, they remind me of the very best silent film comedies from Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin, because they are entirely dialogue-free (after all, animals don't talk, right?) so all the humor is physical. Let me give you an idea of some of the scenarios:
  • What's a poor turtle to do when it gets an itch, but its shell won't let it scratch? Maybe it should just slip off its shell? But like a pair of tight pants, his shell comes off easily, but doesn't go back on nearly so quickly. This leads to some hi-speed hijinks when the turtle has to surf on his shell to evade an eagle that wants to eat the now-exposed turtle.
  • What's a poor firefly to do when it wants to catch some sleep, but its own light is keeping it awake?
  • What's a poor giraffe to do when he accidentally head-butts the moon and knocks it to the ground, where it breaks to pieces?
Each of the stories has a creative set-up, and all come with a happy ending. I don't know if Jungle Beat's creators are Christian, but I suspect so, because they've gone to great lengths to make sure this is family-friendly. So far there are more than two dozen short videos in total, which amounts to more than two hours of viewing, so gather round the family - you are in for a treat!


The producers have collected all 13 Season One episodes into one 65-minute video that they've made available for free on YouTube (and which you can watch below). From our two-year-old on up to mom and dad we all love them. We just wished there were more...


...and now there are! A second season, of another 13 episodes has been produced, and also made available as a 65-minute compilation, here below.


A third season is also available, but not on YouTube yet. So far as I can tell, only Americans can access it online at Amazon.com by clicking here, where the season (mislabeled as Season One) can be purchased for $8.99 (or watched for free if you have Amazon Prime).

You can also check out some screen saver downloads, and a trailer for a very fun-looking Jungle Beat game app (I haven't played it, but think we might buy this one - it's just $2.99) at their website: www.junglebeat.tv

I can't say enough good things about this series. It is so very clever, and other than a few moments of peril, which might have our two-year-old a little nervous, it is entirely safe. Two thumbs very enthusiastically up – I give this a 10 out of 10!

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Peanuts Movie

Animated/Family /Children
2015 / 88 minutes
RATING: 8/10

This is the happy ending we were all waiting for.

Peanuts was always a little hit and miss for me. I liked Linus and Snoopy and PigPen and Marcie, but found it downright depressing when once again Lucy would get good ol' Charlie Brown to fall for her disappearing football trick.

That's why this film is better than comic. It has the strip's funniest bits (we even find out how the Red Baron first became Snoopy's nemesis) minus the melancholy. Sure, Charlie Brown still has more than his share of misfortunes, but he also has good friends – including a far more loyal version of Snoopy – to help pick him back up and push him to keep on trying.

The storyline revolves around a new kid who has just moved across the street. She has red-hair and very good judgment, and from the moment Charlie Brown sets eyes on her he wants to figure out a way to go talk to her. That proves to be a very difficult, largely due to the difficulties Charlie Brown sets up for himself. But with some help from Linus, Snoopy, Marcie and others, our hapless hero learns how to bravely go where Charlie Brown has never gone before.


Our family isn't up for anything all that scary, so I was wondering how the girls would react to the scenes where Snoopy finds the Red Baron. It turned out that the comic setting made it very clear to our little ones that this was not at all real, so they weren't phased at all.

The only cautions I can come up with would be of the most minor sort. Charlie Brown falls in love at first sight and continues to obsess about a girl he has never even talked to. But of course, he's also 6, and kids do dumb things sometimes.

Also, near the end of the film Charles, frustrated by how circumstances were conspiring against him. seems to say a little prayer: "I'm just asking for a little help once in my life." Afterwards he gets what would seem some Divine intervention – he gets tangled up in a kite which pulls him up and over the crowd that was blocking his way. Now God is never specifically mentioned, so Charlie Brown might just be talking to "the Fates" but considering the many (but muddled) references to God in the original strip, it would seem more logical to conclude Charlie Brown is actually talking to God here. If so, his "Don't I deserve a break?" plea shows that Charles is not a Calvinist. At the same time, it doesn't get anywhere near being blasphemous.


While Charlie Brown has always been a man of persistence, here his many positive qualities are finally recognized. (SPOILER ALERT) One of the key scenes in the film has Charlie Brown having to choose between being honest and being popular, and the really refreshing take here is that our good ol' Charles doesn't even hesitate before doing the right thing. There's lots of material here that would make good fodder for discussions about caring for our siblings,  standing up to peer pressure, and also recognizing our own gifts.


The producers have made a wonderful homage to Schulz's work, and, in fact, actually improved on it. A Charlie Brown who doesn't have to wait 50 years for a little happiness is a wonderful step up on the original!