“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”: A Millennial’s Movie Review
Difficulty Level: Cakewalk
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is an action/adventure film with comedic elements. The film is a sequel (same universe, different characters) to Robin William’s 1995 film Jumanji, and is directed by Jake Kasdan. The film tells the story of four teenagers who accidentally get sucked into the updated Jumanji video game, inhabiting the bodies of four avatars played by Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan. Thrown into a quest to break a terrible curse looming over Jumanji, our four heroes must risk their lives to complete the quest in order to return home.
Jake Kasdan is by no means a well-established, well-known director. But if he’s half as good at the job as his father, Lawrence, is at writing, then audiences should have nothing to worry about. But let’s not kid ourselves. The draw of the film is undoubtedly our four main characters, specifically Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Jack Black and Kevin Hart are comedic heavy-hitters and Karen Gillan gets another chance to shine in a role that is not in the MCU. But whether they and the team behind them can surpass the original 90s film is still a question mark. The pressure is on, as many fans are rightfully sceptical that this film can pay enough respect to its predecessor while still being a great standalone movie.
Dwayne Johnson successfully puts the perceived stink of Baywatch behind him, as Jumanji: Into the Jungle is not only fun, but funny too. Much like, Thor: Ragnarok a few months prior, Jumanji is the kind of film that isn’t made to win any awards, but to keep as many eyes fixated on the screen as possible. Jumanji’s pace is rapid and its jokes are funny. It surprisingly has a lot of heart too, which is always a plus for action comedies. Some performances are better than others and the villain is unfortunately a one-dimensional plot device, but at the end of the day, people are going to leave the theatre smiling. Recommended for any sort of group outing, whether its families with children above 12 or a group of friends.
Jumanji isn’t just an adventure film, but also a coming-of-age story about change and life choices. Writer Chris McKenna made an interesting story choice when he made the real-life children the ‘opposites’ of their avatars, giving each a lesson or fear they must learn and overcome. This gave the story and its characters more depth than just your average ‘win the game to escape’ model. A tall, high school football star turns into the little Kevin Hart, while a nerdy, skinny boy with multiple allergies turns into the Rock’s avatar. This makes for some hilarious comedy as each character learns more about themself and the people around them. For the best example of this, look no further than Bethany, a social media-obsessed, attention seeking, popular girl who unfortunately turns into Jack Black’s avatar. While the film is eventually a bit too on-the-nose with their message about life, it was a sound attempt that many people are sure to appreciate.
The characters are incredibly charismatic and lovable, each having their moments of comedy to laugh at, as well as heartfelt moments to shine in. But another strong element of Jumanji is its pacing. It doesn’t take long for the children to enter the video game, and once they do, action often occurs at a very engaging rate. The stunt teams deserve a big shout, as does the director for ensuring every scene was intriguing and had purpose in progressing the story or developing the characters.
Bugs and Lags
The flaws of the film are most obvious between the second and third acts. The CGI in this film is noticeably subpar, though eventually it becomes less distracting. Once we meet Nick Jonas’ character, the pacing does dip and the story grinds to a temporary halt before resuming its quick pace, which was slightly annoying but not a deal-breaker. Jonas’ character is compelling but his line delivery needed a bit more work as well. A not-so-solid performance overall. Finally, Bobby Cannavale as the villain was a fine choice, but the character himself only looked menacing, and didn’t really do anything of note other than ordering his henchmen to capture or kill our heroes. As such, I often forgot his character even existed, as the more interesting antagonists of the film are our heroes themselves as well as the unforgiving terrain.
If Jumanji were a real-life video game, it probably wouldn’t be very well-received. But the writers did a fine job taking advantage of the video-game premise to inject a substantial amount of humour into the film. The cast put in good performances overall, and the action is entertaining. A fine effort by Sony, though far from perfect. Whether it shows enough ‘respect’ to the original Robin Williams film is something I cannot discuss, having not watched the original. But as a standalone flick, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is pretty cool, and something that is definitely worth checking out.
Overall Score: 7.8/10