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Movie Review: “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Theatrical Release: 12/20/2017

Theatrical Release: 12/20/2017

Synopsis

Four high school students, none of which are friends or really even get along, get detention and are told to clean out the basement of their 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 characters they want to play as based on the character names alone. 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 avatars' 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. Fortunately, they each have three lives, so how hard could it be?

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then awarded for each Pro and taken away for each Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points ranging from 0-10 allowing me to convey to you how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Jack Black & The Cast (+10pts)

Jumanji (-3pts)

Video Games (+8pts)

The Objective (-5pts)

Action & Adventure (+5pts)

The Villain (-5pts)

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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 was 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 had great moments and great chemistry together, but Jack Black was the stand-out as far as the comedy was concerned.

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 movie. 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.

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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 what was happening or survive when what was happening was too overwhelming.

Jumanji was such a unique concept, but more importantly, it was unpredictable in the best way. This movie failed to recapture that. Instead of bringing the jungle into the real world, this movie brought real people into the jungle, but they made the real people take on avatars, which made the real world characters feel disconnected with the in game situations. This eliminated a lot of the stakes that the first movie had, and while this movie was still fun, I did not think it recaptured the magic of the first movie.

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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 had unique abilities and weaknesses which were fun to see explored. We also got hilarious moments from side characters who stuck to a strict, programmed-style dialogue. There was so much in this movie that played with the video game format, and the gamer in me had a lot of fun with it. It was very fun for anyone who is (or has ever been) considered “gamer”, but I did not think it alienated those who are less familiar with video games. It is very easy to follow the video game comedy and plot elements, but it still felt creative and fresh, because this sort of thing had not been done before. Jumanji was never a video game (to my knowledge), but the filmmakers made a really fun, video-game themed movie that was so much fun that I would be first in-line to pick up a Jumanji video game (especially if it was VR), if such a thing were created.

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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 countless games. Unfortunately, this being a movie, that objective was a little too simple, and therefore was not very interesting. The jungle was in danger and could only be saved by retrieving a gem and returning it to its sacred location.

This extremely simple objective did not provide a sense of levels or checkpoints. There was no sense of progression, nor was there a build in difficulty as the characters proceeded. 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 made me a lot more invested in what was happening on screen. It also would have made the movie feel more like the original Jumanji, with a similarity to the building chaos as the main characters progressed through the board game.

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Pro: Action & Adventure (+5pts)

The action and adventure in this movie was a lot of fun. The action was well shot, had awesome digital effects, but it was clear that the filmmakers never took it 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 in an entertaining way. Watching Kevin Hart try to run with a massive backpack on his back, watching Dwayne Johnson destroying enemies in hand-to-hand combat in unrealistic ways, and watching Karen Gillan doing extreme martial arts mixed with dancing were all really entertaining. The filmmakers clearly had fun with this premise, and that translated to the screen in an entertaining way.

While the objective was simple and generic, the adventure still worked really well. It was cool to see these characters being stuck in the jungle with threats around any and every corner, while also being stuck in a world with strange video-game rules. The characters were well outside their comfort zones and it was fun to watch them learn the rules of the game while being basically thrown directly into the fire. The movie had a generic objective, but it was a fun adventure to watch nonetheless.

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Con: The Villain (-5pts)

The villain felt both 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 jungle. The environment felt threatening, but the villain 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 a generic objective.

I was very disappointed by this because the filmmakers had the potential for so much more. They had a character that got sucked into the game twenty years earlier. 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 wanted to leave the game, this character had thrived in Jumanji and wanted to stay, thus jeopardizing the main characters' plan to escape the game? Granted there were many directions the filmmakers could have gone in. That scenario I just mentioned is just and example, but the filmmakers had the potential to create an interesting villain that played into the theme of the game. Instead, they created a severely generic and forgettable antagonist, and the movie felt kind of lacking as a result of that.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B+ (85pts)

There is no doubt about it. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a fun movie. There was great action and a fun adventure that both played into the movie’s unique video game theme. The video game concepts and references were abundant, and while they will be very entertaining for gamers, they will not be lost on the rest of the movie-going audience. The movie was not perfect, however.

The objective of the game was extremely simple—to a boring degree—and the villain was extremely generic and uninteresting when there was a clear potential for so much more. Fortunately the comedy made up for most of the movie’s faults. The cast had a great on-screen dynamic, but Jack Black was easily the comedic force of the movie. Every cast member did their part, but Jack Black playing a teen-aged, self-obsessed girl was an absolute joy to watch. The movie had a few issues, but at the end of the day, it was still a funny and entertaining movie.