The Jungle Movie is an interesting departure from the show’s traditional format. Hey Arnold! was notable for being the only Nicktoon that had a therapeutic, life-like structure to its story and characters. Shows like Rocko’s Modern Life, Fairly Odd Parents, Rugrats, and SpongeBob SquarePants were and still are highly energized and somewhat irreverent, but Hey Arnold! was much the contrary. It was a level-headed chronicle of a loyal and big-hearted child making friends out of enemies, assisting his community, and enduring typical coming-of-age scenarios. This slice-of-life stuck out intriguingly well amongst Nickelodeon’s library of fast-paced and chaotic cartoons.
That being said, The Jungle Movie is an adventure film through and through, borrowing elements from Raiders of the Lost Ark (which was one of Molina’s earliest film roles) and the Indiana Jones series in general. We follow Arnold, his best friend Gerald, and his secret admirer Helga as they brave the dangers of the South American wilderness, and a pitiless villain. It’s quite jarring (yet thrilling) to see these young, timeless characters in genuine peril and watch how they work together to make it out alive. Heck, we even see some of bad guys get killed in non-gory over-the-top comeuppances that most Indiana Jones villains succumb to.
Not only is the film a nostalgic trip down memory lane for old school Nicktoon fans, it’s also a pleasurable nod to classic adventure cinema, with some colorful, well-animated effects, surprisingly reveals, fun action set-pieces, and a straightforward character- driven story to back it all up. One of the film’s emotional highlights was witnessing the numerous cameos of one-time characters that Arnold had helped out. I personally wish I saw more of the supporting characters other than a few winks and smiles, but that’s just sentimentality talking. Overall, I really enjoyed Hey Arnold: The Jungle Movie. I’m so glad old cartoons with loose ends from my childhood are receiving closure, and I hope it keeps happening.