Movie Review: Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle
See This Movie If: You can appreciate a well-done soft reboot, don’t mind some potty humor, and want to hang out with some fun characters.
Technical Score: 85.2/100
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a fantastic soft reboot of the 1995 classic. The original film captures everything that is great about a 90’s childhood adventure movie. It also doesn’t work without some iconic performances by Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt, Kirsten Dunst, David Alan Grier, and Jonathan Hyde. Williams is obviously the star of the movie, but some of the set pieces really pull the whole thing together. When the town in the original movie gets over run by jungle calamities, it injects a sense of creativity and wonderment that truly enthralls the audience. It is the juxtaposition of seeing alligators in a living room that makes the audience want to experience the world. And it is the various juxtapositions in the sequel Jumanji:W2TJ that make the theater-going crowd want to sit back and spend time with the likes of Dr. Bravestone, Ruby Roundhouse, Mouse Finbar, Shelly Oberon, and the rest of the gang.
One of my favorite things about the cinema is when you get the feeling like you are hanging out with the characters on screen. When you receive the same feeling as grabbing a couple of drinks with some old buddies, that’s when you know a movie has developed its characters in an awesome manner. Jumanji:W2TJ does exactly that. Dwayne Johnson and company do a fantastic job with the fish out of water trope. Seeing a guy like The Rock be scared to stand up to a guy like Kevin Hart is exactly why this film works. Video games are inherently ridiculous – why only one character can read a map and not others or why one character just spouts of zoological knowledge the second they see an animal – and this movie makes it work perfectly. Plus, a couple of hilariously timed dick-jokes never really hurt anybody.
Character development is at the center of most great stories and that is true for this one as well. Watching these four teenagers come together and learn important (albeit rather obvious and on the nose) life lessons accents the comedy successfully. Jumanji:W2TJ peppers in a sense of humanity to a fantastical world of albino rhinos, NPC’s, and jaguar stones.
High school is basically this film: ridiculous world with strange rules that could kill you if you are not careful, but in the end doesn’t really matter and you might learn a few things along the way, both academic and existential. Also, nothing makes me laugh harder than hilarious high school sexual tension.
A Couple of Questions
At the end of the film, when Alex Vreeke appears in front of his childhood home (I think they were calling it the Freak House during the film, but that’s kind of a lame nickname) he reveals that after he got out of the game in 1996. Meaning, once the party completed the final level, he appears back in the real world almost immediately after he started the game. So for him, although he had been in the game for twenty years, no time has passed in reality. Although the assumptions here don’t totally match up, I am not about to question the space-time logic of a movie that transports teenagers into life-like video games that can kill them. However, I don’t understand how the new video game would find its way to the school? This means that Alex Vreeke, after knowing full-well the horrible trauma the game can cause, ensured that those specific kids would get ahold of the Jumanji video game. This seems like a somewhat horrible thing to do. However, I guess he knew that without them, he would probably stay in that game for the rest of his life. I might do the same thing.
Where did all of those gadgets come from in Alex/Seaplane’s hideout come from? Like I mentioned previously, the subtle nod to the prior film while they are at Seaplanes hideout is solid and just enough for this kind of soft reboot. While the playing party is at the hideout, there are a bunch of relatively modern, non-jungle gadgets, such as a margarita machine. This all seems way too out of place for the narrative of the game. But then again, that seems to be the point. Putting people and things into unusual situations is the bread and butter of this franchise. Also, why are these teenagers drinking margaritas?
Why is Colin Hanks doing this cameo? This question is not super important, but I never understand why good actors like Colin Hanks get roped into doing bit cameo parts. I don’t mind seeing a guy like him in this role, but it always confuses me.