Film Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Tuesday 16 January 2018 by

I’ll start by saying I’m not strictly sure it qualifies as a good film. But it does qualify as silly, funny, and fun.

It opens in 1996 with the Jumanji board game finding its way into the hands of an unsuspecting teen, who promptly informs it no one plays board games anymore. So it turns itself into a video game. Quite why he then decides to play the video game that mysteriously appeared in the box that the board has disappeared from is anybody’s guess, but he’s sucked into the game and the story skips ahead twenty years.

It then follows a Breakfast Club type set-up where Spencer the nerdy guy, Martha the smart girl, Fridge the jock, and Bethany the popular princess wind up in detention together and, of course, stumble on the old video game. They, too, wind up inside it, their minds now in the bodies of the game avatars they chose. The film plays with the differences between what they really look like and the avatars’ appearance to great comedic effect, such as Fridge complaining he’s missing the top two feet of his body or Spencer boggling at having The Rock’s biceps. This context also allows for something I never thought I’d say a film had: genuinely funny dick jokes. It’s all about who’s making them.

The video game logic of the premise is also fodder for the comedy, they have ‘tattoos’ showing how many lives they have left, and pressing over their hearts displays a menu of strengths and weaknesses. Fridge’s avatar Finbar lists cake as a weakness and Martha’s Ruby Roundhouse is skilled at ‘dance fighting.’ They also have to play through the various levels of the game as shown on the map and face down cliché dangers like a booby-trapped corridor, just as you would expect in such a game.

Much of the joy of the film is down to the excellent cast who are all adept at carrying both the avatars’ personas and those of the teenagers who currently inhabit them. This also keeps the stock quality of the avatar characters from becoming tedious and dated (which, based on the early stills released last year, was a genuine concern). Jack Black in particular turns in a genius performance. There was also a nice little tribute to Robin William’s character from the original.

Overall, while not remotely highbrow, it is an enjoyable film. Just remember that sometimes it’s nice to have a film that’s all fun and nothing below the surface, and that’s okay.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is in cinemas now

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan

Director: Jake Kasdan

Writers: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner

You can follow Catherine on Twitter: @dogandbooks

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