Movie Review: ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’
Director: Jake Kasdan
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale, Rhys Darby
Plot: Four school students unearth an old gaming console during detention and find themselves transported into the game world of Jumanji. Here they must use their special abilities and teamwork to complete their quest and return to their own world.
Review: Although it looks very much like a reboot it turns out that this is a direct sequel to the 1995 film which starred Robin Williams. The story picks up a year after the original with the Jumanji board game being found on a beach after having been thrown into a river. It’s handed over to a young teen (Jonas) who expresses disinterest in a board game. Responding to this the game turns into into a video game and ensnares a new victim. There is another call-back later in a film to re-affirm the connection, so this is very much a follow up film.
Twenty years later and a group of school stereotypes are tasked with clearing up a basement as a form of detention, where they find the game and take up the four remaining characters. Once in the game the students take on the roles of their chosen characters, complete with their strengths, weaknesses and special abilities. Spencer, the hypochondriac nerd becomes a muscle bound fighter (Johnson), the sports champion is a diminutive sidekick (Hart), the instafamous popular girl is an overweight, male professor (Black) and the shy girl is an ass-kicking heroine.
The main source of comedy in the film comes from the contrast between these actor’s physicality and the personalities that inhabit them. Jack Black puts his comedic chops to good use playing a teenage girl and doesn’t hold back on reflecting this role in his mannerisms and facial expressions. Gillan and Johnson are no slouches either, with Johnson constantly in awe of his own mass and Gillan awkwardly learning how to flirt to distract guards. The weak link in the chain is the consistently disappointing Kevin Hart, who didn’t get the memo about playing a massive sports hero trapped in a small, weak body and just does the same routine he does in every movie. Unless you’re enamoured with his comedic stylings…such as they are…then he’s a flat note in an otherwise funny experience. They could’ve used the much funnier Rhys Darby, he was wasted in a bit part.
As the characters are inhabiting a video game reality for the bulk of the film there’s no restriction on the kind of action they may encounter – something of a loophole when putting together an action/adventure. As such we have stampedes of rhinoceros attacking an in-flight helicopter, kung-fu kicking motorcycles equipped with rocket launchers and piles of deadly reptiles an inopportune times. The story lends itself to a certain amount fo ridiculous and they film-makers haven’t skimped on it. The logic of video games is also used to fun effect, such as Johnson upper-cutting goons into the high atmosphere. Taken as a gamer, though, it’s not a well designed game – you can’t complete it without all the characters? Silliness.
This is a bright, colourful and fun film, well suited to family outings over the holiday season. If you’ve already seen Star Wars and need a second option then this is worth a look.
Rating: SEVEN out of TEN