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Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie (2017)

After fifteen long years of waiting, the popular Nickelodeon series, Hey Arnold!, created by Craig Bartlett finally achieved the closure that Bartlett envisioned so long ago. A series of very fortunate events plus a resurgence of interest in 90's era pop culture enabled Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie to be created and aired on Friday, November 24. From social media responses, it looks like dedicated fans were quite pleased with this resolution to the original series.
At the end of "The Journal", Arnold finds a map
that proves to be instrumental in the film.

Every fan of the show knows that Arnold's parents went on a mission to the fictional South American country of San Lorenzo and never returned when he was only a baby. This event from his past has been a key part of some of the most memorable episodes of Hey Arnold! canon, including "The Journal" from which this film picks up from. In "The Journal", Arnold discovers the journal of his father detailing how he met his mother, the work he did in San Lorenzo, and the events leading to his final mission back to San Lorenzo. The important thing Arnold discovers in his father's journal is a map which he firmly believes will lead him to the location of his parents and provides the basis for Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie.

It's the end of the school year and the students of PS 118 are anticipating the beginning of their summer. Mr. Simmons (voiced by Dan Butler) announces last minute a contest wherein the winning student and their class will get to go on a trip with a humanitarian group to San Lorenzo. "It's almost like this contest was made for you!" Gerald (voiced by Benjamin Flores Jr.) quips to Arnold (voiced by Mason Vale Cotton) during the announcement and the contest is certainly too good to be true. No sooner does Arnold enter, with more than a little help from Helga G. Pataki (voiced by Francesca Marie Smith), does he win and the class is whisked away to San Lorenzo. It's not long before chaos ensues thanks to fiendish river pirate La Sombra and Arnold is thrust into the adventure of a lifetime with his best pal, Gerald, and his long-time bully who continues to harbor a secret crush on him, Helga.

A class trip to San Lorenzo with our favorite PS 118 class.
What could go wrong?!

While the story itself requires some giants leaps of faith and belief from its audience, it's a satisfying story and well worth the fifteen year wait. There are many call backs to previous Hey Arnold! episodes that old fans will love catching while the story makes it so that new viewers can jump right in without feeling too lost. Fan favorites are back all around and the characters have all grown some. The original series took place in the fourth grade for the main kids while the film takes place during the summer between fifth and sixth grade allowing for some maturation of the characters.

Arnold's not the only one looking for answers.

The film does an excellent job in wrapping up many of the loose ends that were left when the series ended in an untimely manner. It definitely answered where Arnold's missing parents were, what Arnold's importance to the Green Eyed people were, and what in the world Arnold's last name was (hint: it's definitely something you've heard many times throughout the series). The best loose end wrapped up though was how Arnold felt about Helga. In the theatrical film, Hey Arnold!, Helga professed her love to him in a dramatic manner that only Helga could do, only to take it back when Arnold provided her with an out. Series creator, Bartlett, has long stated that Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie would include Arnold's response to that confession and how he felt about Helga. Bartlett holds true to his statement and, in what is one of the most emotionally powerful scenes in the entire canon, Arnold responds in only a way he can.

The film also isn't afraid to tackle difficult subjects and goes to some dark areas with its plot. Hey Arnold! has long been a show that has taken on a multitude of difficult topics, from therapy for mental health to complex familial relationships, the series has beautifully illustrated these struggles that can be appreciated from both a child and adult perspective. The film is no different and handles it's material exceptionally.

My only major criticism of the film would have to be that the everything wraps up too quickly. A great deal happens in the final fifteen minutes and these big moments are unfortunately not given enough room to breathe. This is likely due to time constraints with television films, however it would have been nice to have allowed for some more breathing room for a few of these momentous scenes.

Adventure and mystery abound in the film and
plenty of answers to age old questions are
finally revealed. 

Many original cast members joined to recreate their roles and the new voice actors were able to hold their own. Most notably Francesca Marie Smith did a fantastic job as Helga G. Pataki once again proving that no one else can play her except Smith. Newcomer Mason Vale Cotton brings titular character Arnold back to life authentically and helps bring the character full circle in his quest to find his parents.

Long time fans of the show will be sufficiently pleased, if not ecstatic, by this film and new viewers will fall in love with these kids many of us had the pleasure of growing up with. Thank you, Craig Bartlett, cast, and crew, for never giving up on bringing this film to the screen and giving Hey Arnold! the proper ending it has so long deserved. You did a fantastic job and this long time fan is definitely satisfied. So...can we get a series of the kids in high school now?

FROM Nickelodeon
 81 Minutes