Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, 2017.
Directed by Jake Kasdan.
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Rhys Darby, Bobby Cannavale, Nick Jonas, Alex Wolff, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman and Morgan Turner.
Four teenagers discover an old video game console and are literally drawn into the game’s jungle setting, becoming the adult avatars they choose.
The announcement of a reboot of Jumanji was met with an understandable sense of trepidation. After a few years of reboots and remakes was it really time for an update to the classic 1995 film starring the untouchable Robin Williams? Luckily for us, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is an enjoyable romp that doesn’t tarnish the original and is a hell of a lot of fun.
In 1996 a man digs up the titular board game and after presenting it to his uninterested teenage son, the game morphs into a Nintendo style video game. In the present day, four stereotypical teenagers are stuck in detention when they stumble upon the game. There’s the nerdy Spencer (Wolff), jock Fridge (Blain), airhead instagrammer Bethany (Iseman) and studious Martha (Turner). After selecting their characters they each get sucked into the game. Spencer becomes tough guy Dr Bravestone (Johnson), Fridge becomes zoologist Moone (Hart), Martha the kickass ninja Ruby Roundhouse (Gillan) and in awesome body swap style, Bethany becomes Dr Shelly Oberon a cartographer played by the never better Jack Black. The premise is simple, they have to complete the game and complete various levels, yell out Jumanji and then they can finally go home.
Other than a tasteful nod to the original film, Welcome to the Jungle is its own movie. The premise of the video game is reinforced with NPCs (Rhys Darby being most notable), increasingly difficult levels, strength and weaknesses for each character and a solid structure. It’s also hilarious throughout. Dwayne Johnson throws himself into the role and has fun playing around with his macho persona and Kevin Hart has some good lines – his character’s cake weakness is a highlight. Karen Gillan proves she’s got some solid comedic chops but this film belongs to Jack Black. Perfectly portraying a 16 year old girl, there’s a surprising amount of heart and depth to his character. This is balanced against a ton of penis jokes and a running gag about what’s happened to Bethany’s phone. It shouldn’t work and yet somehow it does.
There are a few missteps including a one-dimensional baddie in the form of Van Pelt (Cannavale) and at times some shocking CGI. Welcome to the Jungle is unlikely to find its place in your heart as much as the 1995 original, but it is an entertaining popcorn movie with some great one liners, solid action and it knows not to take itself too seriously.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★