Jumanji is definitely up there for me when it comes to adventure fantasy flicks. It was especially so in 1995 at the dawn of seamless computer graphics in movies making use of hyper-realistic images of animals ravaging the suburbs. Aside from this feat at that time, it also had a solid story to back it up that brought to screen, authentic emotions along with the spectacle it came with. Twenty two years after, 2017’s reboot Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle features this generation’s premiere comedians, and it looks like it’s gone on a different direction at first glance of its trailer. Did it hold up to the bar that the original has previously set?
This time around, the game has evolved from a board game, into a video game. Why and how? It’s not really explained but now, high school kids are involved—a geek, a jock, a misfit and a bimbo—and it’s an interesting mix. +3
The geek ends up in Dwayne Johnson’s body while the jock, though still black, inhabits a much weaker version of himself (Kevin Hart), physically. The misfit becomes the gorgeous, femme fatale Karen Gillan, and the narcissistic bimbo becomes Jack Black. Now it gets more engaging as these actors try to portray their teenage alter-egos. +2
At first, it seems like the characters are trying to make parodies of their counterparts while acting meta. It's just like their celebrity personas, much like when A-listers guest on SNL and try to be comedians. But then again, they got first time film director Jake Kasdan to direct this flick who is known for his sitcoms, New Girl and Fresh Off The Boat. Now it makes more sense as to what direction they are heading towards. -3
It ends up being just that. A vignette of scenes of a sitcom against the backdrop of the Jumanji jungle. Now this is where matter of taste kicks in. Are you in the theater to laugh or marvel at the splendor of the game that this universe is known for? So, for me it’s a bit of a minus. -3
But, it does have some really absurdly funny moments. Like in the manner of how they die 'cause of the weaknesses of their avatars as clearly stated just like in a video game. They also have certain strengths that they didn’t have as teenagers which they have to use as a team to win the game. Now this aspect makes this film finally more engrossing. +3
The most hilarious moment for me was the kiss between The Rock and Karen. But, of course, it was them playing their teenage counterparts who have never kissed before and it’s a riot of a scene. You have to see it for yourself. +4
Karen also comes back to her comedic roots as she is coached by the indelibly funny Jack Black (possessed by the self-absorbed teenage girl), on how to flirt. Now that’s another scene that’s ludicrous moment. +3
The film ends strong with a valuable lesson that they leave with its teenage characters as they finish the game. So, at least it’s not all that nonsense. +2
It gets a total of 11 points, which is just, just, since it really is just a popcorn flick. Though this film is saved by the spot-on comedic timing of its leads, it is a far inferior sequel to the original. I get it that it was a conscious effort to veer away from it by going the more comedic route, but at times it felt a bit half-baked. For me, if you want to go campy, don’t hold back and make the audience ROTFL. But that’s just me.
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Photos courtesy of Columbia Pictures and Frank Masi