Jan-22-2018

Reel Snippet – Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Summary: Four high school students that are least likely to be near each other – the nerdy Spencer (Alex Wolff), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blaine) the football player, Martha (Morgan Turner) the social outcast, and a phone-obsessed popular girl named Bethany (Madison Iseman) – are forced to spend detention together cleaning out school storage. Exploring the junk leads to the discovery of an old video game and console called Jumanji. As they decide to kill some time and play, they get transported to the world of the game and given the forms of the characters they chose — all of whom are their near exact opposites. Spencer becomes the intense and herculean Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Fridge becomes the diminutive pack mule Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), Martha becomes a smokin’ kung fu lady named Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and Bethany becomes Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black) who is… well, Jack Black. They’ve landed in the jungle of Jumanji which has become cursed because a greedy adventurer named Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale) stole an enchanted gem that has given him power over wildlife. Along with another player character named Seaplane (Nick Jonas), it’s up to them to brave the challenges and save Jumanji so they can get back to their own bodies before it’s game over for all of them.

Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was loads more fun than I was expecting from the trailers. What I thought was going to be a cheap cash in on a great actor’s legacy turned out to be enjoyable with a huge helping of heart on the side. All of the actors have great chemistry with each other, allowing for some great interactions and humorous moments. And hey, I actually enjoyed Kevin Hart in this! Turns out that when he exercises restraint instead of going into full scream mode, he’s really funny.

The main source of humor in this film is these actors pretending to be their polar opposites stuck in their bodies and it doesn’t get old anytime soon. Jack Black trying to teach others how to do a sexy walk and seduce people is pure gold, as is Karen Gillan (who is already super gorgeous and made even hotter in this flick) bombing spectacularly at flirting. Dwayne Johnson as a hypochondriac nerd stuck in a muscular body is also great for laughs, particularly when he inadvertently “smolders.” It really is a standout style of acting that doesn’t get seen much outside of things like Big or Freaky Friday.

Another thing of note in this film’s favor is how it embraces its video game setting wholeheartedly. This feels like one of those NES games Jumanji is trying to emulate – not just the multiple lives and different levels, but the nature of the challenges, the cheesy dialogue from the game characters, the bizarre strengths and weaknesses of each character, and the unforgiving difficulty. In my mind’s eye, I could visualize how this game would look on a screen back in the 16-bit era. I’m surprised they didn’t release a game like that to promote the movie. Then again, with how most movie-licensed games turn out… best not.

I’m not without complaints, of course. The villain, while having a cool concept and doing some creepy things with wildlife, is kinda flat, on par with most of the pre-2017 MCU villains. There’s also the matter of Nick Jonas — he’s not bad, but compared to the acting juggernauts alongside him, the stark contrast is very obvious. Still, I can’t deny that I enjoyed myself. In fact, I think it has a much more consistent tone than the original (which it pays a heartwarming tribute to). If you’re in a mood for a good time, strap on your safari hat and take a run through the jungle.

Fun Tidbit: The composer for this movie was Henry Jackson, who composed the score for the PlayStation 4 exclusive game Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End which takes its characters to Madagascar. So yes, Mr. Jackson has scored two Sony-backed projects that involve adventures in the jungle.


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