Sunday, April 08, 2018

"Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle": two-paragraph review

Directed by Jake Kasdan (son of famous Lawrence, who is associated with the Star Wars franchise) and starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, and Bobby Cannavale, 2017's "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" is an action-adventure-comedy that combines the premises of films like "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "The Breakfast Club" with video game concepts like "Tomb Raider." Four high-school students find themselves in detention, and while cleaning up a part of the school's basement, they discover an antiquated video-game system called Jumanji. Once activated, the game magically sucks the four students into its world, and the rest of the film is about how the four must learn to cooperate with each other to escape the game. The game's premise is that the resident bad guy (Cannavale) has extracted a special jewel from the eye of a statue of a sacred jaguar, thus placing the jungle land/world of Jumanji under a curse. The curse can only be lifted by finding the jewel, returning it to the statue's eye socket, and shouting "Jumanji!" to leave the game. Upon arriving in the game world, the teens discover that they've transformed into avatars that look nothing like their real-life selves: the scrawny nerd now looks like Dwayne Johnson; the giant football player is now puny Kevin Hart; the self-absorbed beauty is now Jack Black; and the angry, antisocial chick is now Karen Gillan (the Scottish actress best known as Nebula in "Guardians of the Galaxy"). This "Jumanji" is a sequel to 1995's "Jumanji," which starred Robin Williams. In that movie, the magical portal was in the form of a board game, so the new movie updates this to a video-game system (the game is capable of transforming itself). One of the biggest criticisms of the Williams movie was that the story never took us into the world of Jumanji; this new film makes up for that in spades by spending most of its time inside the world of the video game. Nerdy Spencer Gilpin (Alex Wolff), who has transformed into the bulky, superpowered adventurer Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Johnson) is a video-game nerd, making him the quickest to pick up on the games various quirks and features. He discovers how to display each avatar's vital characteristics, and he also deduces that certain marks on the characters' forearms represent the number of "lives" each character has left. His gaming skills help the others to navigate the various perils of the game.

I was surprised by how funny "Welcome to the Jungle" was. Both Karen Gillan and Dwayne Johnson proved to be much better comic actors than I had thought either might be. Gillan in particular gets a hilarious scene in which she has to flirt with some rough-looking guards to distract them while the rest of the team tries to steal some transportation. Her method of flirtation is painfully awkward, given how much of an antisocial introvert her real-life player (Morgan Turner) is. All of the adult cast members do fine jobs playing avatars of awkward teens who all need to learn some valuable life-lessons by the end of the film. Jack Black, who plays the avatar of real-life arrogant beauty Bethany, is scarily convincing as a self-absorbed, insecure teenaged girl trapped in a plump, forty-something man's body—a girl who now has to figure out how to urinate with a penis. The movie's special effects were occasionally a bit cheap-looking, but you don't watch a lightweight comedy like this to see cutting-edge visuals. The story's logic is lacking in places, especially when it comes to how the video game is supposed to work, but overall, "Jumanji" is an entertaining thrill ride. What it lacks in depth it more than makes up for in action and, surprisingly, humor. I enjoyed myself.


Charles said...

When you wrote "Karen Gillan (the Scottish actress best known as..." I automatically completed the sentence with "...Amy Pond!" in my head. I guess if your primary association is with Nebula, you might indeed be surprised at her comedic acting chops. If you've ever seen her as a companion, though, it won't be nearly as surprising.

Kevin Kim said...

Yeah, I saw in the Wikipedia trivia that she'd been on Dr. Who, but since I'm not a Whovian, that connection was utterly lost on me.

John from Daejeon said...

The "Jumanji" lost me at the boomerang. It was the ultimate, bad-guy killing weapon that was utilized only once. By my reckoning, it could have taken them straight to the final level without needing to find a missing piece. Sort of like those eagles in a certain series of Hobbit-starring books and movies.

I understand why the movie made a lot of money due to the lack of action-adventure, family-oriented films in the marketplace and its Rock-solid, star power, but I was not very impressed, especially as a bonafide "man-killer" wouldn't need to resort to flirting in the first place. She should've just proceeded to the killing of men from the getgo. A C- flick at best in my book.

Anyway, I probably should not have seen it immediately after watching the most over-looked family film of the year (star power could not entirely overcome subject matter), Wonder. Jacob Tremblay was brilliant in "Room," but he's so good in "Wonder" that there isn't a descriptive word invented yet that does his performance justice.

I reckon that there should be certain films that all teachers and students need to see to gain some understanding and empathy for those of us that are different. "Mask" and "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble" are good ones. "Wonder" joins "The Miracle Worker" as a truly great one.

Charles said...

I will pray that you will one day see the light of the Doctor.

Kevin Kim said...


One day, perhaps. I just can't take those damn Daleks seriously.

Charles said...

You're not supposed to take them seriously!

If you want serious Whovian antagonists, try the Weeping Angels. Those things are freaking terrifying.