That....actually wasn't half bad?
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is next in the line of nostalgia films from the ‘80s and ‘90s to be rebooted / given a prolonged sequel to.
The first Jumanji, which was based off a children’s book and starred Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt and a very young Kirsten Dunst, was released back in December of 1995. While it’s by no means a great movie whose the effects certainly don’t hold up to today’s standard, Jumanji does have it’s fun moments and has managed to maintain a steady audience over the years.
Now we’re doing it all over again, this time modernizing it for 2017 standards by turning Jumanji into a video-game instead of a board game.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle begins in modern times, introducing us to another Breakfast Club of sorts. Four high-school students, the jock (Fridge), the nerd (Spencer), the popular girl (Bethany) and the outcast (Martha), have all landed detention, for different reasons.
They’re all put in charge of cleaning out some old storage room while being told to think about the type of person they want to be. That’s when they find the dusty, ancient looking video-game system wasting away in the corner. Not having anything better to do, the four of them plug it in and grab a controller.
Which turns out to be a huge mistake. This video-game, Jumanji, is not you’re everyday Nintendo adventure. It takes the players and brings them into the world of the video-game itself, turning them into the avatar that they selected to be.
That means that Spencer, who is afraid of just about everything (including talking to girls and squirrels), now has the physical appearance of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Fridge, who was the tough guy no one wanted to mess with at school, lost all his height and muscle and became Kevin Hart. Martha, who never really cared what she looked like or what people thought of her, now has the stunning appearance of Karen Gillan. And Bethany, who just wants to get her phone back and check Instagram, is forced to run around as Jack Black.
The only way to escape the game and return back to normal life is to beat it — which requires bringing some green gem back to some mountain. However, this is Jumanji, so there’s all kinds of leopards, rhino stampedes and random bad-guys on motorcycles that stand in their way from doing so.
The basic premise for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is one that surprisingly works. While Jumanji may have never called for a reboot — and I’m not going to argue that Welcome to the Jungle is a strong enough case for why one needs to exist — turning the board game into the video-game is a way to make the property feel fresh and new, not turning it into a retread of what came before (come at me The Last Jedi haters).
In approaching Jumanji this way, they’re able to have a lot of fun with the whole video-game concept. They make light of common tropes like characters having lives, beating certain levels and interacting with characters who were made for the game and only have a certain number of responses in ways that are actually really clever and reminded me of something like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
Turning the high-schoolers into the avatars is also another wickedly fun idea, as it allows for the stars to play characters that are their polar opposites. Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan and Jack Black all take this idea and run with it, adding some really good humor into the mix. Kevin Hart takes the easier route and is just doing his typical Kevin Hart stick the whole time, but that works if you’re into that kind of thing, I guess. Still, all of the actors have really good chemistry together and manage to elevate Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle to becoming way more entertaining than it ought to be.
Plot-wise, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle comes off pretty light. The characters are trying to get from point A to point B, and there’s a bunch of jungle creatures that stand in their way. There are a few positive messages about what it means to be a hero and all that thrown in there along the way, but it doesn’t offer anything more complicated than that.
The villain, played by Bobby Cannavale, is also another weakness. Not only is he extremely forgettable and barely in the movie, but he seems to exist in this whole other world of the video-game, which raises certain questions about the continuity that exists in Jumanji.
Still, while Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is by no means a great or even a good movie, it gets credit for being self-aware. It knows it’s not going to be in any awards races this year, as that was never its aim. It’s simply trying to deliver a fun movie with some good jokes, and that’s exactly what it does. Not everything is executed as perfectly as it could have been, but you’re certainly not going to hate yourself while watching it.
Watch the trailer for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle here and let us know what you thought of the movie in the comments below!
Board games have come a long way: 'Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle' review6