Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle 2017

Directed by Jake Kasdan.

I can’t believe I didn’t post this when I wrote the review back in at the start of this year! Admittedly, this was on my ever-growing movie pile of shame, and it was shunted out of the way by study and academic writing. Rest assured there’ll be nothing academic here!

Let’s start with an admission that I loved the original Jumanji (1995) and thought it was a great vehicle for Robin Williams. Jon Favreau’s Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005) was very cute but didn’t have quite the same verve that Williams brought to the original. I think the time was right to bring a new film into the stable and this was cleverly added by upgrading Jumanji from a board game to an old console title, hidden away in a school storeroom.

In this version, we have four teens who are magically drawn into Jumanji, while serving detention, cleaning out the aforementioned storeroom. Once they’re in the game there’s all kinds of shenanigans, finding individual strengths they didn’t realise they had, learning teamwork, and even discussions of gender and what constitutes appropriate attire for female game characters (often a point of contention for me).

In essence, we are presented with a series of teen stereotypes playing a series of computer game stereotypes. The cast are uniformly fine. Dwayne Johnson is superbly self-deprecating as the nerdy, shy and supremely unconfident Spencer, who finds himself in a leadership role. Jack Black is delightful as the shallow, self-absorbed Bethany who in the game is a middle aged, overweight professor. Karen Gillan is perfect as shy but dependable Martha, who asks why she’s the only one in a bikini in the game. Kevin Hart is well, Kevin Hart – not a favourite of mine but okay for a film like this. It was great to see New Zealand actor and Flight of the Concords manager, Rhys Darby as the completely deadpan Nigel, and watch out for Rohan Chand (Mowgli 2018) in the bazaar scene.

Computer graphics were suitably “game-like” and the lush colour palette added to the rich feel. Surprisingly, the fight choreography was really very good and narratively it didn’t end up down the rabbit hole of mawkish sentimentality as I thought it might.

I’m increasingly impressed with how Dwayne Johnson has handled his film career, opting for roles that often poke holes in traditional male stereotypes and movies that are decidedly family friendly. This is certainly one to watch with the kids on a rainy day that won’t drive parents away!

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