The Jungle Bunch
Victoria and Abdul
Cert: PG; Now showing
In 2010 Abdul Karim’s private journals were released. These previously unknown memoirs told of an extraordinary friendship which had caused great consternation and been largely excised from history.
Karim was a clerk in Agra when he was chosen, largely because of his height, to take the four-month boat trip from India to England, to present a commemorative coin to Queen Victoria.
He became one of her closest friends in the last years of her life and Stephen Frears’s film tells a version of the story.
Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) was almost 70 and exhausted when the young, handsome and very tall Karim (Ali Fazal) arrived in her life. She promoted him from servant to member of the royal household, calling him her Munshi, an Islamic teacher, in order to facilitate their friendship.
At first a source of fascination and then of outrage to other members of the household, Karim and Victoria faced fierce opposition.
Inevitably reminiscent of Mrs Brown, the 1997 film about Victoria (again played by Dench) and her friendship with John Brown, this film feels a little unnecessary. However it is very light and enjoyable. Dench is great, the baddies, including Eddie Izzard as Bertie, are bad, the goodies are good.
It would have benefited from a timeline as it was unclear how long the friendship lasted (14 years) but it is a pleasant, unchallenging film that will please fans of period drama and Dame J.
Cert: G; Now showing
The Jungle Bunch is a French television cartoon series of which there have been several TV movies (this is their first cinema outing). David Alaux directs this as he did the other films and it is grand. It’s low budget so the animation is less refined than we have become used to but it is aimed at younger children who are unlikely to be interested in animation technique.
The Champs, led by Natasha the tigress, have been looking after security matters in the jungle for some time. Now that they have retired, Natasha’s adoptive son Maurice, a penguin who paints stripes on his body to be like his momma, has gathered a group of animals to take their place.
They meet their mother’s old foe, Igor the psychotic koala, who, thwarted by the Champs the first time he tried to destroy the forest, is now absolutely intent on achieving his aim. Why is unclear, he just is. Natasha, in some pretty dodgy parenting is rather disparaging of her son’s ability to achieve anything, much less save the forest, so poor old Maurice battles lack of faith and a mental marsupial. The Jungle Bunch is quite derivative; there are many pieces that bring to mind other cartoons. The tone is also a little strange, it’s quite snarky at times — the humour lies in laughing at rather than laughing with.
This won’t go down as a classic of children’s cinema, however it is short and will amuse younger children without costing too much in merchandising.