By Jack Dignan
The original 1995 Jumanji is a film a lot of people hold dear to their hearts. The Robin Williams-led adventure is, for many, a childhood classic, but for me personally, while I certainly do enjoy it, I haven’t felt compelled to rewatch it since I was eight years old. So, the idea of a long-awaited sequel neither excited me nor repulsed me. It’s a franchise (I guess Jumanji is a franchise now?) I hold very little sentimental value to, making this 12 years later sequel a very pleasant surprise.
You’ll struggle to find someone who isn’t familiar with the original Jumanji’s overall concept. A board game, discovered by some kids, is brought to life, with the jungle-themed adventure exploding out into the real world. Except now it’s 2017, and board games aren’t cool. Obviously. The game has changed. It’s evolved into a video game, the justification of which is a fun addition, but the basic premise remains the same, with one neat twist. When you play the game, it’s no longer set free, but instead, you’re sucked in, making this the best video game adaptation in a very long time.
During after-school detention, four teenagers are unwilling brought together, where they uncover the video game and are sucked in, becoming the avatar’s they chose prior to pressing play. Scrawny high school nerd Spencer (Alex Wolff) becomes a big, muscular leader, played by Dwayne Johnson. Tough footballer Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain) becomes the short, cowardly backpack guy with an inability to eat cake, played by Kevin Hart. Martha (Morgan Turner), the rebellious girl with reluctance for exercise, becomes a highly skilled ass-kicker played by Karen Gillan. And best of all, the popular self-absorbed Bethany (Madison Iseman) becomes an overweight middle-aged man, played by Jack Black.
Together, these four characters must learn to adapt to their complete 180 turn-around from who they once were and work together to put a stop to the villainous Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale) before he destroys Jumanji altogether. It’s a big, loud adventure that’s the perfect amount of ridiculous, embracing each of these lead actor’s comedic talents in the most fitting of ways. Everything is over the top and unbelievable, but done in a way that perfectly reflects and parodies the modern adventure video game. Gamers will rejoice at its match-made-in-heaven humour, but there’s even enough here for those who haven’t picked up a video game in their life.
Jack Black is the ultimate show stealer, thundering his way through every single scene and giving his funniest performance since Tropic Thunder, maybe even School of Rock. His character is that of a teenage girl, who spends her time delivering lines such as “I like can’t even with this place,” a line that wouldn’t be nearly as effective had some other actor delivered it. There will never be anything funnier than seeing Black discover the joys of peeing with a penis. It’s without a doubt the funniest scene in a film of incredibly funny scenes. However, every single actor feels perfectly cast, and each has their moment to shine.
Bobby Cannavale is severely underdeveloped, more of a walking cliché than an actual character, but it also adds into the whole self-aware factor this film embodies. It’s a parody of what this movie is, so some of its flaws can be forgiven, especially its many narrative shortcomings. What doesn’t get shrugged off as self aware and deliberate is its lackluster visual effects. It feels weird to describe them as something straight out of a video game, as this is technically an embodiment of a video game, but that’s exactly what it looks like, and not in a good way. Plus, any character development present is very predictable, but the outcome of getting there is far from it.
Between this, Coco and Paddington 2, the family films are in full effective this Christmas season, and if you’re after something that not only the kids can enjoy, but anybody of any age will be able to latch onto as well, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a welcomed addition to the summer holidays. Between Dwayne Johnson’s charm, Kevin Hart’s loud humour, Karen Gillan’s epic butt kicking and Jack Black’s unmatched comedic timing, you’re not going to want to miss this film.
3 1/2 Stars
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