Movie Review: “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”
Four high school students, none of which are friends or get along, get detention and are told to clean out the basement of the school. While down there, they discover a very old looking video game console with a game called “Jumanji”, a game none of them have heard of. Curious and with time to kill, the teens plug the game in and choose the names of the characters they want to play as. Upon choosing their avatars, the teens are then sucked inside the game.
Before they know it, they are all falling from the sky and land in the jungle. If this was not strange enough, they quickly learn that they are in the bodies of the avatars they chose. They are inside the game and learn of a villain who has harnessed the life of the jungle for his own gain. In order to save the jungle, the teens must use their avatar’s various skills and abilities to stop the villain and return balance to the jungle. No matter how dangerous or seemingly impossible their objective is, the only way out of this alternate reality is to complete the game.
The Pros & Cons
Jack Black & The Cast (+10pts)
Video Games (+8pts)
The Objective (-5pts)
Action & Adventure (+5pts)
The Villain (-5pts)
Pro: Jack Black & The Cast (+10pts)
The cast was definitely my favorite part of this movie. The role reversal that the avatars created was a lot of fun to watch. The shy, weak, straight-A student is now played by Dwayne Johnson while the strong, football player is now played by Kevin Hart. The typical self-obsessed, spoiled white girl is now played by Jack Black, while the introverted and self-conscious teen girl is now played by Karen Gillan in a very revealing, impractical outfit. The role reversals were very funny and entertaining to watch and the cast worked really well together. Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan all have great moments and great chemistry together but Jack Black was the stand-out when it comes to the entertainment value in this movie.
Watching Jack Black playing a self-obsessed teen girl was an absolute joy. The initial shock of being in a middle-aged, overweight man's body played out really well on screen but this character's role reversal was an ongoing comedic joke throughout the entire film. There were plenty of jokes that focused on this character in Jack Black's body, but it was the way that he spoke and acted that made this character so entertaining. Jack Black played a very convincing teen girl and it was absolutely hilarious to see.
Con: Jumanji (-3pts)
I liked this movie quite a bit, but it did not feel like Jumanji. What was so great about the original movie was the madness coming into our world in unexpected ways. Various animals would come out of nowhere, running rampant through the house or the town. From rhinoceros stampedes and violent monkeys, to quicksand and a hunter with a nasty grudge. It was unpredictable and chaotic as the characters tried to contain it.
Jumanji was such a unique concept but, more importantly, it was unpredictable in the best way. This movie failed to recapture that. While it was unique in its own way, it definitely did not feel like Jumanji, even though it uses the title. Instead of bringing the jungle into the real world, this movie brings real people into the jungle. This movie is not as interesting, because we lose the mystery of the jungle. Before, we knew very little about the jungle. All we saw was the bits of chaos leaking into our world and the rest was left to our imaginations. Letting the audience see so much of the jungle removed quite a bit of the mystery and intrigue from the title.
Pro: Video Games (+8pts)
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle did a really good job of incorporating video game themes and concepts into the movie in an entertaining way. The avatars each have unique abilities and weaknesses which were fun to watch explored. We also get hilarious moments from side chatacters who stick to a strict, programmed dialogue. There’s so much more in this movie that teases the video game format.
It is very fun for anyone who is (or has been) considered to be a “gamer”, but it does not alienate those who are less familiar with video games. It is very easy to follow the video game comedy and plot elements, but it still feels creative and fresh. Jumanji was never a video game (to my knowledge), but the filmmakers made a really fun, video-game themed movie that would have me first in-line to pick up a Jumanji video game (especially if it were VR).
Con: The Objective (-5pts)
I really liked the video game premise, but I thought the objective of the “game” was a bit too generic and simple. I get it, the filmmakers were sticking to their video game theme and provided an objective that could have been taken straight out of a game. Unfortunately, this being a movie, that objective was a little too simple. The jungle is in danger and can only be saved by retrieving a gem and returning it to its sacred location.
This extremely simple objective did not even provide a sense of “levels” or “checkpoints”. There was no sense of progression or build in difficulty. The characters were really just roaming around the jungle as they were looking for the gem. If the objective provided some sort of linear progression in the story (with increasing difficulty) it would have felt less generic while also making the movie feel more like Jumanji (with a similarity to the building chaos and progression of the board game).
Pro: Action & Adventure (+5pts)
The action and adventure parts to this movie were very fun to experience. The action was well shot, had awesome digital effects, but never took itself too seriously. By laying into the video game aspect of the movie, the filmmakers took what could have been generic action and they ramped it up. Watching Kevin Hart try to run, Dwayne Johnson destroying enemies in hand-to-hand combat, and Karen Gillan doing extreme martial arts and unique fighting, were all really entertaining. This movie could have been filled with generic action but, instead, the filmmakers used the movie’s unique concept to deliver some fresh and exciting action sequences.
While the objective was simple and generic, the adventure tone worked really well. It was cool to see these characters being stuck in the jungle with threats around any corner and being stuck in a world with strange rules (having three lives and crazy abilities). They were well outside their comfort zone and it was fun to watch them learn the rules of the game as they were going along. The movie had a generic objective, but it was a fun adventure to watch nonetheless.
Con: The Villain (-5pts)
The villain was so forgettable and irrelevant, to the point where the whole movie suffered. There was nothing interesting or threatening about the villain in this movie. The threat of this movie was the jungle because the characters really only had to survive the dangers of the wildlife in this game. All of that felt like a huge threat, but the villain because he really did not do anything noteworthy in the entire movie. At no point, did he do anything that suggested he would be a formidable adversary for our protagonists. He was extremely generic and was just there to give our protagonists an objective.
I was very disappointed by this because the filmmakers had the potential for so much more. They had a character that disappeared from the same town as our main characters, (only twenty years earlier). There was such potential for this character to be a great villain. The filmmakers could have laid heavily into the phrase “a game for those who seek to find a way to leave their world behind”. What if the villain were the kid that had disappeared decades earlier and, while our protagonists want to leave the game, this character has thrived in Jumanji and wants to stay? Granted there were many directions the filmmakers could have gone in. My “what if...” is just and example, but the filmmakers had the potential to create an interesting villain that played into the phrase of the game. Instead, they dropped the ball and created a severely generic and forgettable antagonist.
Grade: B+ (85pts)
There is no doubt about it. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a fun movie. There is great action in a fun adventure movie that both play into the movie’s unique video game theme. The video game concepts and references are abubdant and, while they will be very entertaining for gamers, they will not be lost on the rest of the movie-going audience.
The movie is not perfect, however. The objective of the game is extremely simple (to a boring degree), and the villain is extremely generic and uninteresting when there was blatant potential for so much more. Fortunately the comedy makes up for most of the movie’s faults. The cast is both fun and funny. They have a great on-screen dynamic but Jack Black is easily the comedic force of the movie. Every cast member did their part, but Jack Black playing a teenage, self-obsessed girl was an absolute joy to watch. The movie had a few issues but, at the end of the day, it was a funny and entertaining movie that was definitely worth seeing.