[NO MAJOR SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW]
Finally, after over a decade of waiting, the long-running Nicktoon Hey Arnold! gets the finale it deserved all those years ago.
For those who are unaware, Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie was originally intended to be the theatrical film that ended the series and was to be released around 2002. A TV movie titled Arnold Saves The Neighborhood was also made around this time. However, after successful test screenings, Nickelodeon opted to instead release the TV movie in theaters first as Hey Arnold! The Movie and release The Jungle Movie later. Unfortunately, the first movie wasn’t well received critically or commercially. That, and contract disputes between Nickelodeon and the series creator, Craig Bartlett, caused The Jungle Movie to be cancelled.
Recently, though, ’90s nostalgia has been a big driving force in the entertainment world, and Nickelodeon has made a big effort to capitalize on this. It brought a ’90s-themed programming block to its Teennick channel called NickSplat. It has ramped up production on DVD boxsets of these shows, and most importantly greenlit several TV movies based on its old properties, including Legends of the Hidden Temple, Rocko’s Modern Life, and Invader Zim. The most anticipated of these movies was the Hey Arnold! movie, and Nickelodeon took this opportunity to finally make The Jungle Movie after years of fanmail requesting it give Arnold and his friends closure to their story.
The story takes place one year after the 44-minute special The Journal, which was made as a prequel to the would-be movie at the time. Arnold’s class is selected to enter a contest to win a trip to San Lorenzo, the country where Arnold’s parents have been lost on for the past nine years. Arnold’s class wins and they go to San Lorenzo with the intention of learning about the country. They instead find themselves held captive by Lasombra, an evil treasure seeker who believes Arnold is the key to find the city of the Green Eyed people and its treasures. Arnold, Gerald, and Helga escape and use the map and Arnold’s journal to find the city and Arnold’s lost parents.
With a plot like that, it would have been easy for this film to lose the laid back, slice-of-life feel of the original series. The Jungle Movie avoids this by keeping the characters true to themselves. The characters react to the high concept situations in ways that make sense for them, keeping the movie’s feel very similar to the show.
The animation is also very good. It fits somewhere in the middle between traditional TV animation and theatrical 2D animation. The backgrounds and the shading on the characters at times look absolutely stunning. There’s only one part with a CGI temple that looks really jarring, but it’s only for a few seconds. Overall, the team did a great job making the animation pop out.
This movie is a phenomenal entry in the Hey Arnold! franchise. I won’t spoil the ending, but it not only gives this series a crowd-pleasing and satisfying conclusion, but also leaves the door open for a potential new season of the Hey Arnold! series. Before I saw this movie, I wasn’t sold on the idea of more Hey Arnold! episodes after this movie, but after watching it I really want to see more stories with these characters again. So, no matter what happens, I’m satisfied with the treatment of this childhood staple of mine. It felt really good to finally see this movie after years of thinking it was cancelled forever. Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie is an example of a fantastic byproduct of this ’90s nostalgia boom.
What did you think of Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie? Did you think it was satisfying after years of waiting?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes