So, this synopsis will not be much to do with the movie any more than what "The Journal" entailed. Arnold found an old, well, journal while cleaning out the attic in the boarding house he has lived at with his grandparents and adult figure friends as long as he can remember. This journal talks about how his long-lost parents, Miles and Stella had met in the South American community and jungle of San Lorenzo. You see, they fell in love, Miles being the awkward one, and they decided to marry right there in the jungle and have a kid. But when they were about to have Arnold, they weren't near a hospital and a volcano was erupting. And it was right when Arnold was born that the volcano somehow...stopped erupting. And it's been said that a group called "The Green-Eyed People" know about how Arnold is connected to San Lorenzo. Apparently Miles and Stella helped out these people in return for saving them and their son and have done scouting and missions for them. But for about 9 years, they've been missing, and Arnold's lived with his grandparents ever since. At the end of "The Journal", Arnold found a map at the end of the journal. A detailed and telltale map of San Lorenzo. Now it's been probably several months in the Hey Arnold universe, and 15 years for us, since Arnold found that map, and he has been having dreams that he's finally with his parents for a few moments, and then they're gone from his life all over again. And now there's actually a class field trip coming up where he'll be able to go to San Lorenzo. Gerald says it seems like this trip was designed for Arnold. And Helga is starting to feel like this opportunity to help Arnold find his missing parents will allow her to have some leverage to show Arnold how much she secretly loves him.
So, before I go any further into the movie, I need to explain something. If you watch this movie having no knowledge of the cartoon or any of these characters, you might think this movie is not that special, like watching the last Harry Potter movie without having any prior experience with the rest of the story. So what I would recommend doing first is watching the series. For the rest of us Hey Arnold fans, I only recently started watching the cartoon around three years ago so I haven't been hit by the show's cancellation and finally-released-second movie as much as some others. But I have a little bit, and if you wait and watch the series before watching this movie, you'll love it. I can almost guarantee that you'll love it. Craig Bartlett should be proud of himself. Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie zapped me with chills and fears.
Does this movie have no scenes I didn't like, and no reasons for it to not be a rare A+? Actually, no. To get it out of the way, there's a bathroom joke that is placed in the middle of the movie during an otherwise perfect scene that was too copy-and-paste and unrealistic, and in a cartoon this serious, unrealistic didn't mean fine. There are also a few predictable moments here and there and a scene where some characters get unnecessarily angry. But combine that with all my desires and high expectations, and there is no contest. The first Hey Arnold movie, in my opinion, retained the feel of the cartoon but wasn't inspired and was basically an episode stretched to movie length that didn't really have movie material. But Craig Bartlett had this movie idea in mind ever since he pitched Hey Arnold!, back in 1994, and he and the crew know that this movie was a miraculous chance for them, a chance they almost never got and probably thought for years they wouldn't get, to do something they and the fans have been dreaming about for ages, so they knew they couldn't phone this in. They put their heart into making this movie, at a miniature 80 minutes, the best in terms of fan service they could, and they delivered. I said in my review of the last movie that I didn't expect it to reach the level of tension and heart as escaping from jail after 19 years. But this movie does just that.
For starters, Arnold's always been a relatable character, almost never resorting to the negative side of a situation and helping out everyone in his community however he can. That was something the cartoon was always good at: showing children and their parents that being nice could land you loyal and caring friends, and even a crush or two. There’s a new factor in this movie, though. His desire to find his missing parents. I know this can’t compare to not being able to be with your parents, but I was reminded of my desire to find Monster by Mistake, a 3D cartoon I’ve been after for the past 3 ½ years. And Arnold’s a 10-year-old kid, and San Lorenzo’s on the other side of the Earth’s hemisphere. I’m sure this movie will inspire people to save up their money and do something they’ve always wanted. And the fact that Arnold’s parents are missing but could be alive bugs him to high heaven. Once again, relatable.
And here’s something The Jungle Movie does exponentially right: the characters. For starters, let’s look at the whole cast. Hey, Arnold! had kids and adults with all different sorts of personalities, skin colours, shapes, sizes, hobbies and a feel that they’ve gone through situations to make them who they now are. And we haven’t been with these people for ages, so we want them to be back but we also don’t want them taking up the entire movie because we wanted this movie to answer the long lost question of Arnold’s parents and his relationship with Helga. The movie understood this and gave each person enough desired and required screen time. Even every animal, specifically the always likeable pig Abner.
There’s also an escape scene or two, and you might remember how I didn’t like they reenacted the Shawshank escape scene in the first movie rather than come up with something of their own. This time they do come up with something of their own, and it isn’t even too far fetched.
As for the things we learn, I’m not going to talk about those. Watching the movie is a lot better than reading about it in a review. The only thing I will say is I was on the edge of my seat, terrified about what would happen, and I think I cried a few times, and then I listened to the Hey Arnold! cartoon end credits afterward, in deep thought. Movies that make me care about the plot and people so much that they feel like relatives have that special gift that really makes them unforgettable. Oh, but before I finish this long review, just wanted to say one last thing. Helga’s dad, Big Bob Pataki, is still selling Big Bob’s beepers, a communication device that’s not a cellphone in the age of cellphones, and it’s a device that looks more like a camera flash with unclear buttons than a form of contacting.