Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Director: Jake Kasdan
Writers: Chris McKenna (screenplay by), Erik Sommers (screenplay by)
Featuring: Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Rhys Darby, Bobby Cannavale, Nick Jonas, Madison Iseman, Ser’Darius Blain, Morgan Turner, Alex Wolff
Four high schoolers, with conflicting personalities, as a punishment are cleaning out the school basement, it is here the discover an old video game console, after deciding to boot up the game and play it they choose their character avatars only to be somehow be transported into the game. Now they must find a way out whilst playing as their avatars but more importantly the must learn to co-operate with each other, otherwise they could be stuck in the game forever…or worse.
Remaking a much-loved film is always going to be a risk and certainly when the news filtered through my reaction was luke-warm although to be fair with remakes it generally always is.
The trick to this enjoyable and funny remake was the casting, with ‘The Rock’ Karen Gillan, Jack Black and Kevin Hart doing the heavy lifting you are looking at a fairly stellar cast. On an off day they could all mess up the film but as it is the chemistry and fun is there to see and everyone seems to enjoy their job of being a video game avatar inhabited by a very different teenager. All good stuff.
The second improvement is updating the format so that Jumanji is one of those old cassette player video games. Just on the cusp of the video game explosion, there were some weird ones out there, and Jumanji would fit perfectly into that niche.
The teenagers that are sucked into the game are extremely cliched but the charm of the film and fun of the story just about keeps that under control and to be honest those clichés are needed for the fun ahead with the avatars.
The get out of jail card that the makers have written themselves in a stroke of genius is that the Jumanji video game is a bonkers, no-sense, late eighties video game so what happens once our heroes are in the game follows that mantra perfectly. In fact man-eating hippos and dirt bike riding henchmen in the jungle actually is so loopy it makes perfect sense within the framework. Very clever.
The main actors seem to have fun playing their roles with Johnson admiring his own huge physique with amazement early in the story, Karen Gillian immediately questioning what she has to wear a crop-top and tiny shorts to fight baddies in the jungle and Kevin Hart lamenting his only role in the game as ‘carrier of equipment’ particularly as he is black in ‘real-life’ and the game, but the plaudits go to Jack Black who with some skill transfers the self-obsessed, social media junkie teenage girl into a form that is well…..Jack Black, as you can guess physically there is no similarity but he has got that down to a tea. As someone who likes the work of Ryhs Darby I was chuffed to see the Kiwi comedy actor turning up in a pivotal role.
Once the film dives into the world of the video game the story really takes off and laughs and sense of fun and dare I say it even peril are kept coming fast and furious (yes I did go there) and the only lagging and stumbling we get in this remake is when we are outside with the kids. This is never more true than at the ending of the story with too much be tied up a little too neatly, It was as if they lacked the confidence that remake was not quite good enough to get a sequel. Oh ye of little faith.
Overall the action, the acting and fun are high on the scale in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle but with all great films the cast seem to come together and connect and are on top of their game and everything slots into place.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle sounds like a remake that is not needed, it should work, but against all odds it is a fine fun film and very entertaining.
What more can you ask?