Editors Note: In preparation for December’s “Jumanji: The Next Level”, Alex takes a look at 2017’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” To see my exhaustive review of the movie, go to https://inreview.blog/2018/06/13/jumanji-2017-jungle-2-jungle/
— Mitchell Chapman, InReview Owner and Editor
I remember hearing about this movie and seeing the promotional stuff for it. It looked okay; another reboot that modernized the source material. But while watching the trailer for the sequel, I remembered this movie and thought it would be interesting to give it a watch.
The movie quickly introduces the audience to the cast rather quickly, following nerdy high school student Spencer (Alex Wolff), athlete Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), popular girl Bethany (Madison Iseman), and cynical outsider Martha (Morgan Turner). After the four of them get detention together, Spencer finds the eponymous game-in this version, resembling an Atari 2600 cartridge. After getting the game to work on an old TV, everyone is sucked into the game world of Jumanji. Each of the kids control different avatars; Spencer is the strong and confident Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson), Fridge is the diminutive zoologist “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), Martha is a Lara Croft-type Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and Bethany is overweight cartographer Shelly Oberon (Jack Black). They’re guided by Nigel Billingsley (Rhys Darby) to return the Jaguar’s Eye, an ancient treasure stolen by Bravestone’s rival Russell Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale).
There’s two casts for the movie, there’s an imbalance between the two. While the cast for the real world aren’t the worst choices, not much stands out for them. But when we get to the game world, that is where it shines. Each of the actors work in helping the kids reach the epiphanies they need about their flaws and how to improve. And believe me, watching the Rock and Karen Gillan kiss like awkward high schoolers is a joy to watch. However, the jokes about Jack Black being the avatar for a teenage girl, while having some good moments, only has so much fuel until it runs flat.
The changes made to modernize the film for contemporary audiences was one of my reasons to check it out. Video game plays a pivotal role in both the story and for some of the comedy. Some of the best jokes were the practicality of Ruby Roundhouse’s outfit and how the expectations they have for their abilities. Aside from the jokes that play with video games and video game logic, most of the story is what we’ve seen before and can be expected. The framing device of detention is akin to “The Breakfast Club” and other John Hughes movies, and everything in the game is your standard journey with the MacGuffin and the friends we made along the way. This is by no means a strike against the movie, but rather an observation.
Now, I never saw the original movie. And while I wasn’t able to compare the original, I was able to respect the homage to Robin William’s where the team meets the fifth player, played by Nick Jonas and the elephant figure. But this movie does what any good reboot should do; modernize for the times but keep the same spirit as the original. And with that, the movie’s able to keep a balance that celebrates the original but changes for a younger audience.