Movie Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

Starring: Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black and Karen Gillan

Directed by: Jakes Kasdan

In a brand new Jumanji adventure, four completely different teenagers in detention get sucked into an old video game they find. Together, using their new in game personas they must work together to defeat the game and get back to the real world.

This is my first cinema trip of 2018 and it was to see the massive box office smash hit Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Quite a few people have told me to go into this movie and treat it as a separate entity and not think of it as a sequel or a reboot of the Robin Williams classic. This is exactly what I did and the hype this film possess is real! For me this was a grossly funny movie that was perfectly cast and deserves all the plaudits and success it’s been receiving up until now.

The movie starts with the Jumanji board-game being found on a beach, it then transforms into a video game once the finders son (Alex) has zero interest in playing Jumanji in its original form. Alex starts playing the video game, chooses his character and then gets sucked into the game itself. Fast forward 20 years and 4 very different teenagers get sentenced to detention with each other. You have Bethany, a completely self absorbed popular girl who can’t live without her phone. Fridge, the stereotypical jock who gets the nerdy kid help boost his grades so that he can play football. Spencer, the aforementioned nerdy kid and finally Martha who is the ambitious, intelligent girl who lacks confidence in herself to make friends or get involved with anybody at school. While in detention the students stumble across an old gaming console with Jumanji already in the cartridge slot ready to play. They select their characters and suffer the same fate as Alex by getting sucked into the game. Spawning as their game characters instead of their real selves each teen has to adapt to being somebody else and all work in unison if they are to complete the game and return home.

There are probably hundreds, if not thousands of reviews for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle you can read on WordPress or IMDb which I feel will all be very similar but one more wont hurt. Jack Black is probably the show stealer for me. He plays the in game character of Bethany and watching Jack Black take on and own the role of a teenage girl is just brilliant to watch and so incredibly funny. Dwayne Johnson would be the natural fit of the jock but is the in game character of the nerdy Spencer. It’s a complete role reversal for Dwayne which he adapts to very well using his natural charm and ability to fit comfortably into his role. I could talk about Karen Gillan and Kevin Hart too and the way they were able to portray somebody you usually wouldn’t expect them to be but the quartet all did very well. The movie is very funny and entertaining, even more so that it’s 1995 predecessor.

I didn’t think a video game version of the board-game was a plausible idea and didn’t see it working as a concept. Well, how wrong was I? The story and the way the video game was navigated through was genius and the writers and director deserve huge credit. Some of the fight scenes were a joy to watch and I loved the character development and bonding of a group of teens who under any normal circumstance would never be considered as a group. Naturally as the group progress through the levels of Jumanji they get rescued by game veteran and prisoner, Alex. He’s been lost for 20 years and this is a way for the guys to help him get back home. With a lot of ups and downs the mishmash group of strangers share some heartwarming moments as they become close friends while looking out for each other.

Another nice moment in the movie was the connection made between the initial Jumanji with “Alan Parrish was here” carved into a tree within the game. Alan Parrish was played by the late, great Robin Williams and it was nice touch that the connection was made between the two movies. There might well have been more Easter eggs from the first movie which I didn’t pick up on but I’ll need to watch the two movies back to back to truly know.

In conclusion, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a fantastically funny and entertaining movie with some superb comedic acting in otherwise unfamiliar roles. If I had to choose between the two Jumanji’s at the moment I’d have to say that I currently prefer this version which I’m incredibly surprised at as I was a huge sceptic when I initially heard this was being made.

8/10

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