Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

  • Time: 119 min
  • Genre: Action | Adventure | Comedy
  • Director: Jake Kasdan
  • Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Bobby Cannavale


In a brand new Jumanji adventure, four high school kids discover an old video game console and are drawn into the game’s jungle setting, literally becoming the adult avatars they chose. What they discover is that you don’t just play Jumanji – you must survive it. To beat the game and return to the real world, they’ll have to go on the most dangerous adventure of their lives, discover what Alan Parrish left 20 years ago, and change the way they think about themselves – or they’ll be stuck in the game forever, to be played by others without break.

2 reviews

  • “The most fun you can have with Jack Black’s penis.”
    Rating: 7*.

    In 1995, Joe Johnston (“The Rocketeer”, “Captain America: The First Avenger”) directed “Jumanji” – a quirky, fantastical and dark film starring the late, great Robin Williams that got a rough critical reception at the time of release, but was embraced by the public and has gone on to be a modern classic. So when it was announced that a sequel was in the works 22 years later, my first reaction was “Oh no… is nothing sacred?”. It’s fair to say that I went into this flick with extremely low expectations.

    But I have to say that – given this low base – I was pleasantly surprised. It’s actually quite a fun fantasy film that I predict that older kids will adore.

    Initially set (neatly) in 1995, a teen – Alex (Nick Jonas, of the Jonas Brothers) unearths the board game Jumanji where it ended up buried in beach-sand at the end of the last film. “Who plays board games any more?” he scoffs, which the game hears and morphs into a game cartridge. Cheesy? Yes, but no more crazy than the goings on of the first film. Back in 2017, four high-school teens – geeky Spencer (Alex Wolff, “Patriot’s Day“); sports-jock Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain); self-obsessed beauty Bethany (Madison Iseman); and self-conscious, nerdy and shy Martha (Morgan Turner) – find the game and are sucked into it, having to complete all the game levels before they can escape.

    But they are not themselves in the game; they adopt the Avatars they chose to play: Dr Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson, “San Andreas“); Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart, “Get Hard“); Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan, “Dr Who”, “The Circle“; “Guardians of the Galaxy“); and Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black, “Sex Tape“, “Kong”). Can they combine their respective game talents – and suppress the human mental baggage they brought with them – to escape the game?

    There was a really dark time-travelling angle to the storyline of the original film – the traumatic start of Disney’s “Flight of the Navigator” was perhaps also borrowed from the concept in the book by Chris Van Allsburg. An attempt is made to recreate this in the sequel. I felt the first film rather pulled its punches though in favour of a Hollywood happy ending: will this be the case this time?

    The film delivers laughs, but in a rather inconsistent fashion – it is mostly smile-worthy rather than laugh-out-loud funny. Much fun is had with the sex change of Bethany’s character, with Jack Black’s member featuring – erm – prominently. The characters all have strengths and weaknesses, like a game of Top Trumps, and this also entertains. But the most humour derives from the “three lives and it’s game over” device giving the opportunity for various grisly ends, often relating to the above referenced weaknesses.

    Given the cast that’s been signed up, the acting is not exactly first rate although Karen Gillan shines as the brightest star. But “it’s not bloody Shakespeare” so ham-acting is not that much of a problem and the cast all have fun with their roles. Dwayne Johnson in particular gets to play out of character as the ‘nerd within the hunk’, and his “smouldering look” skill – arched eyebrow and all – is hilarious. Rhys Darby, looking so much like Hugh Jackman that I had to do several double takes, also turns up as an English game-guide in a Land Rover, and Bobby Cannavale (“Ant Man“) is Van Pelt, the villain of the piece.

    There has been much controversy over Karen Gillan’s child-sized outfit. But she is clearly a parallel to the well-endowed Lara Croft, and young male teens didn’t play that game for the jungle scenery! She is meant to be a hot and sexy video game character, and man – does she deliver! Gillan is not just hot in the film: she is #lavahot. This makes her comic attempts at flirting lessons (as the internally conflicted Martha) especially funny. Hats off to her stunt doubles as well, for some awe-inspiring martial arts fight scenes.

    Fans of “Lost” will delight in the Jumanji scenery, surely one of the most over-used film locations in Hawaii if not the world!

    Where the film gets bogged down is in too much cod-faced philosophizing over the teenager’s “journeys”. This is laid on in such a clunky manner in the early (slow!) scenes that the script could have been significantly tightened up. And as I said above the script, written (rather obviously) by a raft of writers, could have been so much funnier. Most of the humour comes from visually seeing what’s happening: not from the dialogue.

    Directed by Jake Kasdan (son of director and Star Wars/Raiders screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan) it’s really not half as bad as it could have been and certainly not as bad as I feared: I would gladly watch it again. For it’s target audience, which is probably kids aged 10 to 14, I think they will love it. And, unlike many holiday films, the parents won’t be totally bored either (especially the Dads, for the obvious misogynistic reasons outlined above!).

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  • There are a lot of clever touches in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, not the least of which is the concept itself. Instead of having the game’s jungle beasts rampage through the outside world, the game’s players are swallowed into the world of the game itself. This may seem a bit been there, done that on paper until one sees how the filmmakers use its A-list cast to reinvigorate what could have been a very tiresome gimmick.

    Both a sequel to and a continuation of the 1995 film starring the late Robin Williams (to whom the film is a tribute), Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle begins in 1996, one year after the events of the first film, as a teenager named Alex Vreeke wakes up one night to discover that the board game his father had found on the beach, and which he had ignored in favour of his preferred video games, has transformed itself into a video game cartridge. Soon after he begins playing it, he’s sucked into the machine and is never seen or heard from again.

    Cut to twenty years later – Alex is a local legend due to his unexplained disappearance and his father is a hollowed out shell of a man. Meanwhile, four schoolmates stumble upon the video game in their school’s storage room where they’re serving their detention. Deciding to kill some time by playing the game, the four suddenly find themselves literally dropped into the world of Jumanji. Here’s where the fun begins. Nerdy germaphobe Spencer (Alex Wolff) has now become his chosen avatar, Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), a fearless and muscular archaeologist; footballer Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) turns into the diminutive Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), a zoologist who is also Smolder’s weapons valet; shy loner Martha (Morgan Turner) is now the hot and badass Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). Best of all, narcissistic popular girl Bethany (Madison Iseman) is distraught not only because she has been separated from her cell phone, but her avatar is the overweight, middle-aged cartographer Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon (Jack Black).

    The quartet soon realise they’re in the video game, have special skills and weaknesses, that they have three lives each, and that the only way they can escape is to return a jewel to the jaguar statue from where it was stolen by big-game hunter Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale), who has a squad of deadly goons and the power to control all the animals in the land. Yet that’s truly beside the point for the film’s enjoyment derives from watching its stars poke fun at their own images, both playing to and against type. Seeing Johnson turn on Bravestone’s smouldering intensity is a hoot as is Spencer’s never-ending surprise at viewing his muscular body. Ditto for his Central Intelligence co-star Hart, who mines hilarity from Fridge’s frustration at not only being Spencer/Smolder’s sidekick but from having speed, the very thing he was known for in real life, be one of his weaknesses in the game life. The always charming Gillan, meanwhile, is winning as Martha learns to embrace her inner flirt and warrior. Then there is Jack Black, who is comic perfection as a whiny, self-obsessed 17-year-old girl.

    Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle may often be shallow and juvenile, but it is designed to be a relentlessly fun ride. For the most part, it succeeds thanks to its game and highly engaging cast.

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