Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle - 2017
Director(s): Jake Kasdan
Writer(s): Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg and Jeff Pinker
Cinematography by: Gyula Pados
Editor(s): Steve Edwards and Mark Helfrich
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan and Nick Jonas
Synopsis: Four teenagers find themselves trapped in an old video game, Jumanji, and the most defeat the game to get back to the real world.
I will be the first one to admit, when they announced a sequel/reboot of the 1995’s family classic Jumanji, my eyes rolled so far back to my head that I saw memories long forgotten and I knew where I left my Chapstick. For some it may be a stretch to call the original a classic, but it’s creative, unique and has Robin Williams giving a heartwarming performance. Growing up, I can’t count the times I made my parents watch that movie. I didn’t think anyone could or should touch it. But this movie proved me wrong. Is it an instant classic? I don’t think so. Is it a great movie? Maybe great is too much of a strong word. Is it an absolute blast and funny? Hell, yes.
I was worried when I saw the number of credited writers attached to this project - I say “credited” because it’s very rare that a movie credits all its writers. I thought the movie would feel disconnected and uneven, as you could almost tell who wrote what part. The sense of humor is consistent throughout the movie and the character arcs, while predictable, are satisfying to see at the end. The writers really benefit from having an incredibly charming cast to deliver on the goods for the audience. One of the aspects I truly loved about this movie was the use of many video game tropes. Many things that, as a gamer growing up, you either make fun of during the gameplay or just mention to your friends as stupid things you noticed from the game. The way they used the NPC (Non-player character) way of talking and behaving was clever and flat out funny.
Quick note: Nigel, played by the criminally underrated Rhys Darby, is the best NPC. He is given the task of giving the audience almost all the exposition lines, but somehow manages to make it hilarious.
The cast is truly fantastic. Dwayne Johnson plays against type as Spencer. While his avatar is this badass explorer, the teenager that embodies him is shy and scared of close to everything, making for some great comedic moments. Kevin Hart is Kevin Hart as always. Just when I think I’m tired of his style of comedy, I find myself laughing at his reactions and line delivery. Karen Gillan holds her ground around three charisma machines and delivers some great moments especially when her character tries to flirt. But this movie is completely stolen by Jack Black. He plays Bethany, self-absorbed teenage girl trapped in the body of an overweight middle-aged man. Everything from the way he walked, talked and reacted was just funny. There wasn’t a single moment that Black was on screen that my attention didn’t gravitate towards him. His character arc is also the best in the movie as she starts to see the how the people around her and the world around her matter more than her phone and selfies. This is his best performance probably since 2011’s Bernie. There is a scene in where his character needs to pee and by far the best scene of the movie.
Director Jake Kasdan delivered on the comedy and on the action. There are many action set pieces that were exciting and entertaining. He never missed a moment to cut to the right character to either punch up the scene with a comedic moment or with a great reaction shot. I think the biggest weakness of this movie must be the visuals. At times it looked great, with the animals and the environment looking beautiful, and at times it looked like four humans standing in front of a green screen. There are also some scenes that looks like they were shot in a studio, because they were, but when your movie says, “Welcome to the Jungle” I want to feel I’m in the jungle.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a great action comedy filled with enough jokes and action sequences to entertain you throughout its 1h 59m runtime. The cast is incredibly charming, led by the scene-stealing Jack Black. It’s an absolute blast and I would pay good money to see them do another movie. While it’s predictable and there are moments you have seen before in countless movies, I was entertained and at the end of the day that’s certainly one of the reasons I go to the movies. Jack Black is why I love movies.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is currently playing in theaters. Go watch it.
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