Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
|Writer(s)||Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg & Jeff Pinkner|
|Release Date||December 20, 2017|
In this continuation of the classic Robin Williams adventure flick, the board game Jumanji has been adapted to fit the modern world. Transforming itself into a video game cartridge – Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. An unlikely group of four students find themselves in detention one day and come across an old gaming system. Rather than continue their menial detention task, they decide to begin playing.
Each one selects their character out of four options (there are five possible characters, but one has already been selected, strangely) and hits Start. Then, they’re all sucked into the game system.
As each of the kids land in the game world, they discover that they’re not themselves anymore. They’ve been replaced by avatars that they chose. Spencer Gilpin, an awkward nerd gamer (Alex Wolff), becomes Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson); Martha Kaply, a bookish girl with low self-confidence (Morgan Turner), becomes kickass fighter Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan); Anthony “Fridge” Johnson is a bulky jock and Spencer’s former best friend (Ser’Darius Blain) who becomes Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart); and Bethany Walker, a beautiful, self-obsessed phone addict becomes Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon (Jack Black).
They need to find and replace a stolen jewel before the world of Jumanji is destroyed. To do this, they need to play through the levels of the game which increase in difficulty, play to their in-game strengths, and work together as a team. All while discovering who they really are as people, not just as caricatures in the real or the virtual world.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle looks like a dumb action movie. Is it?
I went into Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle simply expecting a fun fantasy action comedy that would be a diversion during the post-Christmas days. It definitely is tha. It’s truly a hilarious film. There were moments, often centered around teen girl-Jack Black, that had me gasping for breath and wiping tears of laughter from my eyes. It might be just a fun action comedy, but it’s truly comedic and very smart.
Gamer reality elevates this into precise, comedic brilliance.
The whole gamer realism factor of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle works incredibly well. The four students become the avatars of the characters they chose, gaining powers and skills that they don’t normally possess. They encounter NPCs (non-player characters, controlled by the game) as they walk through the game world. These characters don’t have depth of development or a wide range of conversational or action skills. This would be detrimental in many films, but because Jumanji follows the rules of video games, it works well and its used for humor and storytelling. And by contrast, the kids are well-characterized through their adult avatars.
Let’s Dig Deeper…
Moreover, the avatars have their own particular set of game-only skills, most of which don’t conform to traditional physics. Dr. Bravestone can smolder sexily to influence people, while also throwing people hundreds of feet away. Mouse can carry a backpack like a boss, but has no strength or speed. His weakness is cake, which makes him explode. Ruby Roundhouse is dressed like women in games usually are, and is exceedingly awkward about it, despite being the stunning Karen Gillan. She also can dance, fight and defy all laws of physics while beating the crap out of people. And finally, there’s Jack Black’s Dr. Oberon.
As I’ve said before, while the humor is well spread out among the ensemble, Jack Black knocks every single line and wordless look out of the park. Between being a girl stuck in the body of “an overweight middle-aged man” (and all the physical discoveries that might lead to, with side-splitting narration), his mentor-like interactions with Karen Gillan’s Martha/Ruby is just hysterical. At one point there’s a montage of Jack Black giving a She’s All That series of lessons to Karen Gillan. Both are clearly having a blast. And so was the entire audience.
If you like fun and uproariously funny fantasy action films, then absolutely and nearly unequivocally. The main caution I’d give is to parents of younger kids. There are a plethora of penis jokes peppered throughout the film, but concentrated in one (priceless) section. Come on: there’s a teenage girl stuck in a man’s body. There’s going to be awkward discoveries.
That being said, jump into Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and just watch these actors have a great time!
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Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
- Jack Black outdoes himself in every moment of the film.
- The adults-as-awkward-teens trope is perfected here.
- The dedication to detail of gamer realism as a genre is particularly meaningful to me–it was the subject of my Master’s Thesis on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series.
- There’s a nice nod to Robin Williams’ Alan Parrish.
- Some parents might have been unpleasantly surprised by the language and references when bringing younger kids to the movie.