Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
Director: Jake Kasdan
Screenwriters: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Rhys Darby, Bobby Cannavale, Nick Jonas
Plot: Four teenagers are sucked into a virtual game of Jumanji and cannot return to the real world until they defeat the villain Van Pelt and restore harmony to the jungle.
Despite an uncontrollable desire to hate this film, it has managed to refresh a rebooted concept and bring new energy to the typical archetypal cast of angst-ridden teens. Let the reluctant enjoyment commence.
Four teenagers get sucked into a videogame – now there is a plotline the average twenty-something tends to avoid, especially when it is playing around haphazardly with your childhood memories. The original 1995 Jumanji conjures up familiar visions of the late Robin Williams running wild with a spear; evading Van Pelt, and making us all chuckle.
Joe Johnston’s 90s flick was undeniably the best emotional development action adventure fantasy romp since The Goonies, and praised (seems laughable now) for its groundbreaking CGI effects.
The reimagining sees the battered board game turn into a slightly more up-to-date Nintendo 64 games cartridge, because as watching the original caper proves; there’s nothing scarier than old graphics.
Director Jake Kasdan made sure that the refreshed premise had some cliché character archetypes. Jumanji features a “popular ” (Madison Iseman/Jack Black), a “jock” (Ser’Darius Blain/Kevin Hart), a “nerd” (Alex Wolff/Dwayne Johnson), and an “outcast ” (Morgan Turner/Karen Gillan) at loggerheads in detention. It is basically The Breakfast Club ft. wild animals and The Matrix.
The foursome soon have to start working together when they are sucked into Jumanji and tasked with breaking the curse and saving the land.
In a Freaky Friday twist, they all embody the avatar they chose at the start of the game. Needless to say, they certainly don’t align with who they are in the real world – humorously highlighting the allure of escapism that video games emit.
The group reflect today’s teen by being painfully digitally aware, giving the film meta undertones as they make fun of repetitive sub-characters and in turn, their new avatar identities.
Jumanji’s backstory is relatively weak, and focus is kept firmly on the heroes rather than the villain (Bobby Cannavale) who rarely features and struggles to evoke a shudder. The game-ified “cutaway” scenes unfortunately mirror the poor back story commonly found in video games too well, especially for a feature-length film.
Dance fighting, cake eating and stellar comedic performances from The Rock and Jack Black undo the four writer screenplay faux pas. While it does not stand up to the original in the minds and hearts of many millennials, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle staggers itself to stand up as a standalone.