Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

Posted: February 15, 2018 in Film reviews
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Directed by Jake Kasdan. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Karen Gillan and Kevin Hart.

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A gentle Sunday afternoon orienteering was about to get a whole lot more exciting!

When four high school students are placed in detention and tasked with clearing out the school cellar, they discover a strange old-fashioned games console. It’s twenty years since the magical board game Jumanji wreaked havoc. The world has moved on, but so has Jumanji, sensing that people no longer play board games its redesigned itself as a computer game.

The four students grab a controller and choose a cheesy character to play in the game. Before you can say “Jumanji!” they’re sucked into the game and find themselves in another world, and that’s not the only change, because they’ve each become their own avatar. So nerdy gamer Spencer Gilpin is now a musclebound explorer named Dr Smolder Bravestone (Johnson) whilst Spencer’s former best friend, a jock nicknamed ‘Fridge’ is now a weedy zoologist nicknamed ‘Mouse’ (Hart). Cynical loner Martha has become a scantily clad kung-fu expert named Ruby Roundhouse, and most shockingly of all, selfie obsessed Bethany is now an overweight cartographer named Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon (Black)

The only way to escape the game is to return a fabulous jewel to it’s resting place in the eye of a statue, but whilst the group have heaps of special skills to call upon they’re facing an army of bad guys. They each have three lives to help them along, but once they expend them death might just get a lot more permanent!

When four high school students are placed in detention and tasked with clearing out the school cellar, they discover a strange old-fashioned games console. It’s twenty years since the magical board game Jumanji wreaked havoc. The world has moved on, but so has Jumanji, sensing that people no longer play board games its redesigned itself as a computer game.

The four students grab a controller and choose a cheesy character to play in the game. Before you can say “Jumanji!” they’re sucked into the game and find themselves in another world, and that’s not the only change, because they’ve each become their own avatar. So nerdy gamer Spencer Gilpin is now a musclebound explorer named Dr Smolder Bravestone (Johnson) whilst Spencer’s former best friend, a jock nicknamed ‘Fridge’ is now a weedy zoologist nicknamed ‘Mouse’ (Hart). Cynical loner Martha has become a scantily clad kung-fu expert named Ruby Roundhouse, and most shockingly of all, selfie obsessed Bethany is now an overweight cartographer named Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon (Black)

The only way to escape the game is to return a fabulous jewel to it’s resting place in the eye of a statue, but whilst the group have heaps of special skills to call upon they’re facing an army of bad guys. They each have three lives to help them along, but once they expend them death might just get a lot more permanant!

 

Though it came out in December, the fact that Jumanji was still in cinemas way into February finally gave me to time to catch up with it. With a great cast and an amusing trailer I’d been tempted, but something held me back. Having finally gone to see the film all I can say is, I was a fool! If I’d gone to seen this in December I might have got a second viewing in!

‘cos Jumanji is very enjoyable, in fact it’s ridiculously enjoyable. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it won’t win any Oscars, and it’s not really deep and meaningful (though there’s some nice morals hiding in there) but sometimes it’s just enough for a film to entertain, and Jumanji entertained me a whole lot.

It’s been a while since I saw Jumanji, but aside from a few call-backs you don’t need to have seen the 1995 Robin Williams’ vehicle to enjoy this one, and the premise is a straightforward fantasy quest. It pretty much takes the route you expect it to. What makes the film so fun is the script, the performances and its sheer energy. I was never bored, I laughed a whole lot, and I may have even inched my bottom towards the edge of my seat on occasion.

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“Hey, where’d my hair go?”

Dwayne Johnson is a man with enough natural charisma to power a city. His imposing physique is allied with great comic timing, and a dash of old school Hollywood charm; the fact that he has no qualms about taking the mickey out of himself is just icing on the cake. Is he the greatest actor in the world? Not remotely. Does it matter? See previous answer. He has a lot of fun playing the nerd who’s afraid of everything, and his special skill of being able to ‘smoulder’ to order is used to great comic effect.

Jack Black’s had a varied career. For every High Fidelity or School of Rock there’s a King Kong or The Holiday, but given the right material he’s a hoot, and boy does he get the right material here. Tasked with playing a self-obsessed teenage girl he throws himself into the part with vigour. It would have been so easy to overplay this, to camp it up into caricature, but for the most part he keeps it just the right side of too much, and along with Gillan he has the funniest scene in the film as Shelley has to teach Ruby Roundhouse how to flirt, and both actors completely nail it.

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Gratuitous Karen Gillan picture.

Karen Gillan’s come a long way since Amy Pond, and as a big fan it’s no surprise that I loved her in this. Yes she’s dressed a little too revealingly (words I never thought I’d say), but thankfully her character has enough agency that you just go with the flow. She’s brave and kicks ass with the best of them, and just when you think the film’s going to go down the route of her learning to be womanly…well…you’ll see. Plus, as stressed above her skit with Black is pretty much worth the price of admission alone.

Rounding out the team Kevin Hart is amusing as the high school jock trapped in the body of a nerd. He has great chemistry with Johnson and you can see why they’ve made several films together. He too has good comic timing, but thankfully gets his share of heroic moments, in fact each of the ensemble gets their chance to shine.

Bobby Cannavale’s villain is a little lacking, but in the main it’s because he isn’t given much to get his teeth into, and given he’s a virtual character I guess that makes sense, but Nick Jonas rounds out the in-game characters nicely with an intriguing role. Outside of the game I give props to the four actors tasked with playing the teen (and in fact real) versions of our heroes. It’s testament to their performances that despite limited screen time I’d have happily seen more of them.

Well acted and directed, with laughs and thrills aplenty, you can argue Jumanji is a trifle lightweight, but when a film is this entertaining that hardly seems to matter. I’m not sure how they can wangle a sequel, but I really hope they do.

Jumanji!

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Hopefully these guys are back in any sequel too!

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