Over these past few years Dwayne Johnson has almost completely conquered the world, so will his remake of Jumanji get him one step closer?
Synopsis: Four teenagers discover an old video game console and are literally drawn into the game’s jungle setting, becoming the adult avatars they choose. (IMDB)
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, and Kevin Hart
Writers: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, and Jeff Pinkner
Director: Jake Kasdan
Rating: PG (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 119mins
For showtimes and more, check out Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle on movietimes.com.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle puts a semi-fresh spin on everybody’s favorite board game that so happens can result in your death (Ouija boards aren’t fun). Right from the start this movie hammers the fact that this is a modern take on Jumanji. Is it a board game now? No, because “nobody plays board games anymore.” It’s actually a video game! The movie tries to break down 1996 consumer culture in a modern way, but when we flash forward to the year 2016 the postmodern social media consumer culture (which they end up thinking their critiquing) ends up being completely phoned in.
We’re introduced to our high school protagonists in such a lazy, hackneyed way. It’s the 21st century now, technology is becoming even more than a daily part of our lives, so the best way to communicate this to our audience is having each of our characters play a postmodern stereotype! None of the characters are remotely likeable in any way. Our main hero, Spencer (Johnson), is an average joe who plays video games and is incapable of talking to girls. Fridge (Hart) yes, his name is actually Fridge is a dumb football jock who is failing all his classes. Bethany (Black) is a social media obsessed dumb blonde who takes selfies before class and facetimes during tests. Martha (Karen Gillan) is the early-on likeable character who wants to get into Ivy League schools but has a habit of talking down to her superiors. Our characters are all brought together via detention and finally they enter Jumanji and the movie becomes entertaining.
Johnson is absolutely hilarious, and to no surprise is the strongest part of the movie. He oozes charisma, while also maintaining the shyness and early cowardice of his character Spencer. Hart is finally tolerable in something, playing off the other characters and interactions rather than trying to force feed the audience whiny jokes. Black as Bethany made for some of the most hit-or-miss moments of the film. Some jokes were hilarious (Black teaching Gillan how to strut and flirt with guys), while others feel completely flat (If you’re a fan of juvenile male anatomy humour you will love this movie). Gillan as the male ass-kicking heroine was amazing, as her scenes feature some of the only good action in the entire movie, as well as some of the best humour present. Oh yeah, and Nick Jonas is in this too and that’s pretty much it.
The story was insufferably predictable, with every cliche character having a cliche arc, but some were actually enjoyable. Bethany, in regards to character arc, has the most emotionally satisfying one. Her character starts off unbearable and surprisingly turns into one of the most likeable by the end. The theme of technology in our postmodern world is relevant throughout, but we never skim past anything deeper other than “we shouldn’t constantly be on our phones.”
Jumanji 2, as a movie, is much better than the original. However; something that the original succeeded at whereas this once failed is the character of Van Pelt. In the original, Van Pelt gave emotional levity that connected Alan to the idea of his father. The Van Pelt in this movie is nothing more than a generic bad guy who wants to stop our protagonists. Looking at it from a video game perspective, a lot of villains in simple video games are just hamstrung antagonists with no emotional backstory. It would have been nice to have this Van Pelt offer an emotional attachment our heroes rather than being a disposable nobody. Speaking of callbacks to the original, Jumanji 2 has a few that fans will enjoy. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is more of a spiritual sequel rather than a direct sequel. This was a smart choice as they don’t have to rely so heavily on nostalgia to guide the audience.
Overall, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a fine adventure film that is better than the original. It starts off very poorly, and the jabs at present day youth’s obsession with social media and technology don’t land, but once Dwayne Johnson and co. show up the movie becomes instantly more entertaining.
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