As an animated movie meant for kids, writer/director Brian Zemrak’s Bongee Bear and the Kingdom of Rhythm is jaunty and innocuous. The titular Kingdom of Rhythm is located in a verdant forest occupied by talking animals and altruistic humans. King Jason (Julian Sands) upholds the peace between the animal and human population. Bringing much joy to the kingdom, the King and Queen announce that they’re going to have a daughter, Princess Katrina (Debi Derryberry). Soon, the royals put Bongee (Rob Paulsen), a young orphaned bear, in charge of protecting Katrina. The two grow close as they begin to grow up.
The magical land is inhabited by citizens who love singing and dancing. Every year, the town throws a party celebrating harmony and dance. Everyone is invited, including the evil witch Banderilla (Ruth Buzzi). When the King asks her to dance, she struggles to keep up, causing everyone to laugh at her. Consequently, Banderilla is furious and puts a curse on the kingdom, preventing the citizens from ever dancing again.
Bongee confides in Mindy (June Lockhart), the wise owl, who suggests that he find the witch and apologize for how everyone acted. Hopefully, this will cause her to break the spell. Setting out with his ostrich pal, Myrin (Dom DeLuise), Bongee finds that things don’t go as planned. But that doesn’t deter the bear from completing his mission.
“…Banderilla is furious and puts a curse on the kingdom, preventing the citizens from ever dancing again.”
Bongee Bear and the Kingdom of Rhythm establishes the leafy setting and the cordial atmosphere before emphasizing Bongee’s lofty quest. There’s dancing, singing, and camaraderie during the first half. While self-proclaimed as evil, the witch doesn’t try to ruin the party until everyone laughs at her. While nothing can excuse the witch’s behavior, she reacted from a place of anger, not malice. The build-up of the curse is done well on account of giving younger viewers an idea of cause and effect. How we treat people matters, and how we react to a situation matters.
While the movie is thematically accessible for younger audiences, the cheerful music and the 2-D animation will prove most intriguing to them. One song, in particular, titled “I Love to Sing, I Love to Dance,” is a good indicator of how much dancing means to the citizens of the kingdom. The songs, while forgettable, fit the plot and are sung fairly well. The voice acting is pretty solid as well, with Ruth Buzzi being a standout as the menacing witch.
Zemrak’s animated vision comes to life through lush colors and lighthearted musical numbers. Despite writing a narrative on good and evil, the filmmaker provides important themes about compassion and forgiveness throughout the fantastical story to show younger viewers the right path to take. Bongee Bear and the Kingdom of Rhythm is rough around the edges in terms of the animation and story. With that said, the movie has a good enough rhythm to make it enjoyable.
"…jaunty and innocuous..."