Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle Review 90’s kids films are the best. They usually looked pretty budget, the acting was sometimes off and the stories were so outlandish that reflecting back on them makes you question what the hell was going on. Jumanji was no exception; a crazy board-game inspired romp where the jungle infested our world and brought hilarity with it. Since the announcement of a follow up film starring The Rock, everyone held their breath and hoped they didn’t undue the timely classic. Sadly, there’s no sighs of relief – only annoyance.
The first (unneeded) task for the film is to bring it into the 21st century, achieved through getting rid of the classic board game and turning it into a video game cartridge. The 4 main characters, stuck in detention and tasked to clean out an old classroom, get sucked into the game and turned into their chosen avatars. They then become the game, tasked to restore a jewel to it’s rightful place while tackling a series of levels and baddies. It’s an interesting twist on the game element, but where the original made every move and action change the landscape around them, this video game direction falls short continuously. Numerous explanation scenes of what NPC’s are, or being confused at dragging all the characters into a cutscene makes the film feel as if it’s explaining each and every choice it’s making. Young kids that know how to play videos games will understand everything without someone needing to tell them, while parents probably won’t care that much and already understand what a cutscene is.
Where there’s points that are too heavily explained, there’s others where the video game aspect could have been taken so much further. A whole game world isn’t rendered all at once, and the directors could have had moments of loading or rendering further away parts of the world to make it more authentic. There’s other scenes which definitely wouldn’t happen in a real game world, so the rules of the ‘game’ are pretty murky. Plot holes aside, there’s not many moments of true risk or danger and this sometimes works in the films favour. One of the first scenes in the jungle is surprisingly brutal and hilarious, something that a video game setting can allow for. While you can see most (if not all) of the jokes coming, there’s some corkers that do make this film feel different to the usual action flick.
The Rock has steered this reboot into a character play, and his playoff against Kevin Hart is slightly stale when considering many of their height jokes have already been done in Central Intelligence. Karen Gillan has always been slightly dorky and more grounded than her Hollywood counterparts, so it’s fun to see her play on these as her overly sexualised video game character brings out a stronger side to the girl ‘playing’ her. Jack Black also flips the script, portraying a young teen girl obsessed with her image and Instagram, definitely the strongest character of the bunch. The film truly centres on these characters and the kids behind them coming to terms with qualities that they hadn’t possessed before, but there’s 2 main issues; This is a ‘Rock’ film and, as such, action sequences solely turn into showing him being the biggest badass ever (riding a motorcycle with a flamethrower being chased by jaguars – yeah, that crazy). You lose what makes the original exciting which is the perseverance of vulnerable peofchannel ple. Putting the teen Spencer, a nerdy, unconfident nerd into the body of a jacked up wrestler doesn’t make you feel for him more, rather the risks are little to none as they’re pretty much indestructible. It would have been a better move to have the kids actually in the jungle as themselves, rather than rely on star power to channel the characters through.
Jumanji was always a risk to reboot, one that hasn’t really paid off. Lets face it, Star Wars is coming next week and anything that has been put up against it will probably be forgotten quickly (what was released at the same time as The Force Awakens?). It’s a fun, action packed romp through a fictional game world that doesn’t deliver close to the emotional gravitas of the original, but if you want something that’s a quick shoot’em up then go see the Rock smoulder his way through this reboot.
Check out the trailer below: