REVIEW: Jumaji: Welcome To The Jungle

90s kids rejoice! The cult-classic of a decade has been updated and upgraded with a return to the Jumanji jungle.

When the original Jumanji board game is found washed up on a beach, it’s gifted to metal-head teen Alex Vreeke. After discarding it because board games are like, totes lame, it transforms into a console game, and Alex is swallowed in to the screen, never to be seen again.

Twenty years later, four high schoolers land themselves in detention when they too stumble across the game. Eager to avoid their detention duty, the unlikely foursome fire it up. After choosing their players, they’re sucked in and spat out in the heart of the Jumanji jungle.

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Credit: inSing.com

Transformed from nerd, jock, queen bee and bookworm into an arsenal of bad-asses, they must use their combined strengths and skills to progress through various ‘levels’ to save the jungle from the greedy and evil overlord and restore harmony in Jumanji once more.

When I found out the plot of the Jumanji sequel I was thrilled to discover that they’d updated the old story to fit in with the times. By changing the board game to a videogame the writers are giving a nod to the audiences old and new, while also leaving a lot of room for relatable gags and twists.

Something that was a favourite for me was the typical ‘gaming’ riffs – a shout out to the many laughs I got from the comical NPC characters that would just repeat their phrases until you moved along.

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Credit: Critical Hit

The revamp has been on the cards since 2012, and has really divided fans of the original and cartoon TV series. Where some (me) were hopeful of the old spark being reignited, others thought it was an unnecessary move and, even worse, a snub to the late Robin Williams, whose performance in the original is one that really will live on.

Speaking of, I thought it was great to give a subtle nod to Alan Parrish, portrayed by the legendary Robin Williams, but it didn’t dwell or go too far trying to engage audiences in the nostalgia. I found it a fitting tribute.

Another highlight was the ‘beating of the drums’ – the signal that danger was near. We’ve all been there while gaming. You’re exploring some plot, thinking you’re safe and boom – the tune kicks in and you’re immediately on the defensive. This works well in the movie, and it truly replicates the same feelings of unease.

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Credit: All Movies 4 Me

I felt like the complex relationships between the characters could have been delved into a lot more – particularly the fractured friendship between Spencer and Fridge. It was touched on so that the audience understood the tension, but I think if it was slightly expanded on it could have added a lot to the climax and storyline all together. We see this again with Spencer and his mum being very germ-conscious (not an ideal phobia when you’re stuck in a tropical jungle without any anti-bac). Putting just another minute or so into the development of that would opened the script up to a lot of funny gags.

Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson really are a match made in heaven – their chemistry on and off the screen was the perfect cast for Jumanji, especially considering their role-reversal into nerdy dweeb (Johnson) and popular jock (Hart). They’ve both clearly ran with their characters and have no problem switching typical roles when they need to.

Karen Gillan strips herself of her Scottish accent and manages to take on American floorlessly. She’s witty, likeable and sexy as fuck to boot. Still though… can’t really forgive her for coming on to The Doctor behind Rory’s back…]

Jack Black is a funny one for me – sometimes I love him (School Of Rock, Shallow Hal) and sometimes I can’t bear to look at his stupid face (Nacho Libre). I loved him in this. It takes some talent to play the exact opposite of everything you are, but casting Black as the shallow air-head Bethany was a stroke of genius. He plays up to the typical tween role without being condescending and effortlessly flits between silly comedy and heart-warming gestures.

Karen Gillan in JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE.
Credit: The Hollywood Reporter

If I have one complaint about the movie overall, it’s that the ‘real’ characters (before they turned into their characters) were just plain unlikeable. Producers and writers were clearly trying to pander to the stereotypes far too much, which resulted in weak scenes, diluted chemistry and general cringe. It says something when actors in their 40s+ can portray real teenagers better than ACTUAL teenagers.

Unlike so many other films that have come out this year (we see you, Disney), this is NOT a reboot or remake of the original. It’s a continuation that’s been moulded to fit in the new world.

Overall, this is a great movie that compliments its predecessor without trying to overpower or copy it.

A charming main cast that work extremely well together, coupled up with breath-taking landscapes, and a good mix of silly and serious come together to create an enjoyable watch.

What’s more, it ended up being a refreshing take on the already-tired videogame genre (I mean, Pixels? Really??) and didn’t take itself too seriously.

 

What did you think of Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter at @dimmickhead!

 

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