As the Hollywood regurge-o-tron 5000 springs into life again, it spits out another classic, this time in the form of Jumanji, the classic Robbin Williams film from 1995.
I’m not aware if this is meant to be a sequel to Jumanji, a reboot or something else. It’s unnecessary whichever way you look at it, but it’s here and look at we must, for the studio gods tell us so.
This time round we have four teenagers; The geek – Spencer, Alex Wolff (Patriots Day, Paper Towns), the jock – Fridge, Ser’Darius Blain (Camp X-Ray, The Last Full Measure), the “it” girl – Bethany, Madison Iseman (Still The King, Those Who Can’t) and the intelligent one – Martha, Morgan Turner (Invincible, Mildred Pierce).
They all end up in detention one day, through various means and methods, where they stumble across an old games console. This, they promptly hook-up and switch on to discover Jumanji. They each select a character to play the game with and, wouldn’t you know it, they end up being sucked into the game as their avatar.
Spencer becomes the godlike Dwayne Johnson (Moana, Fast & Furious 8), Fridge becomes the dorky Kevin Hart (Captain Underpants, The Secret Life Of Pets), Bethany becomes an overweight middle-aged man in Jack Black (Goosebumps, Bernie) and Martha becomes the hot, athletic Karen Gillan (Guardians Of The Galaxy, The Big Short). You get it, they all become the opposite of the thing they hate. Few! Never saw that coming.
In order to escape Jumanji they must complete the game, which sees them going up against the bad guy, Van Pelt, Bobby Cannavale (Ant-Man, Chef), who is able to control animals because he’s stolen a gem from the eye of a massive statue, a gem which the gang must return.
Along the way they meet Alex, Nick Jonas (he’s apparently a singer, in a band, with his brothers…who knew, who cares!), who believes he’s been in the game for a few months but it transpires it’s much, much longer.
As per, the gang must overcome the prejudices they hold about each other and about the people they have become in order to work together and beat the game and go home.
To judge Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle in the context of Jumanji the original film is quite simple: It’s utter tosh. It’s not that it can’t hold a candle to the original film, it’s that it doesn’t have a candle to hold, or hands with which to hold a candle, if it had one to hold, you get the idea.
It is not a ‘great tribute’ to Robin Williams as they allegedly set out to make, it’s a cutty cooker movie that loosely uses the original premise. I say loosely because those of us who’ve seen the original film will remember it tended to take place in the real world, rather than being sucked into the game.
Rather than be all prissy about it though, let’s look at Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle as a standalone movie that just happens to use the same name as the 1995 film, with an added bit.
In that case, what we have is a fairly fun, generic family film in which Johnson is the standout followed closely by Gillan. I’m not going to get into the whole thing about why it goes from a 50/50 split to a 75/25 split boy/girl thing, or why Gillan’s character, the only girl remaining in the game, is dressed like Laura Croft (something that is, briefly, pointed out but is left at that). Other websites will cover that better than I’m qualified to do.
Johnson gives us the fun we expect from a Johnson led, family movie. He’s funny, throws a bit of action into things and shows of his muscles. Gillan plays her character just as well with plenty of action and comedy to boot.
Black and Hart I was less impressed with, the latter I found just down right annoying as a character whilst Black’s take on being a woman trapped inside a man’s body was painfully cliched at times.
The movie lacks any of the raw energy, the emotion or the scares that Williams, Dunst and Pierce gave us in the original Jumanji.
Here’s an idea, instead of playing off the legacy of a good film and a much-missed actor, why didn’t they just release this as Welcome To The Jungle? Oh yeah, I forgot, money.