Saturday, December 23, 2017

Jumanji : Welcome to the Jungle

Adventurers beware: do not begin unless you intend to finish. The exciting consequences of the game will only vanish when a player has reached Jumanji and called out its name. Jumanji (1996)

The deep, ominous drum beats are back inviting the curious to play Jumanji. When I first saw a theatrical trailer for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, it didn't generate a lot of interest. The gimmicks and updates to make the idea more modern seemed like a lot of distraction from the fact that the original story caught your attention for it's simplicity. However, I was invited to see it yesterday and gave it a try.

Jumanji the board game, much like this movie, has pulled off a Skynet sort of move and evolved with the times which is a pretty scary thought if you think about it. Transformed into a video game cartridge instead, it patiently waits for it's next victims in an abandoned room at the local high school. The game is found by a group of four students spending a day in detention. Yes, they are, in a nod that has to be intentional, playing out another gem from the 80"s - The Breakfast Club. There is the awkward, neurotic geek (Alex Wolf), the popular star athlete (Ser'Darius Blain), the unpopular, bookish girl who's looks can be transformed just by letting down a ponytail (Morgan Turner) and the shallow, selfie obsessed popular girl (Madison Iseman). Once the game is started they are all transported into the video game each one represented by our big league stars - Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan. They each have 3 lives and must complete the game levels with the help of another person sucked into the game in 1996 (Nick Jonas)

What follows is some adventure and a lot of PG-13 humor. The humor for the most part falls into to two categories. One is that the geeky guy is Dwayne Johnson and the athlete is Kevin Hart. News flash, if you haven't heard, Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock is a sturdy muscle mountain and Kevin Hart is best describe as The Pebble (He called himself that so it's ok. No stature shaming here). Much is made of this and it gets the chuckles and laughs it deserves although it is the lowest hanging of fruit for comedy. Second and a little more original are the penis jokes. Lots and lots of penis jokes. Bethany, the self absorbed blond, is inside the body of Jack Black. Despite her obvious annoyance at this, she quickly becomes fascinated with having a penis. As the movie plays out some of these jokes are expectedly juvenile and others more laugh out loud. One particularly uncomfortable but enjoyable moment for the audience is what physically might happen when Bethany is around Alex who is played by pretty boy (and decent actor) Nick Jonas.

In the end, I'll take the original Jumanji. It was an almost perfect blend of fun action and a charming but also sad little boy lost story thanks to some great acting by Robin Williams and Bonnie Hunt. This Jumanji reaches for those more serious feelings but falls short. Also I would've like to have seen more of the teens. I honestly found them more interesting. I have to give Jack Black props though. His talent for physical comedy works really well channeling a teenage girl. I struggle with how to rate my movies but will go old school here and give this a solid B-. Oh and I've included links here to let you pre-order Jumanji : Welcome to the Jungle or practice some good old nostalgia and buy the original 1995 movie.