‘JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE’ (2017) Movie Review – Thoroughly Enjoyable With A Tonne Of Laughs
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a sequel to the 1995 family classic that followed two siblings who find a board game that puts them in a number of terrifying situations. This film is directed by Jake Kasdan and follows a group of high-school students who find a video game called Jumanji, upon playing the game they are transported into the world of Jumanji as their avatars played by Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black. I honestly did not know how this movie would fare when putting it up against the original, and the truth is I had a tonne of fun with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. It doesn’t try to be like its predecessor, yes it has the same name and the same base concept of a game that inhabits a tonne of dangers but it is very well updated for a modern audience. The switch from a board game to a video game gives the story much more freedom to create something new and it makes full use of that freedom. The humour is surprisingly great and some of it plays off the idea of being in a game where the large chunk of it is derived from the body-swap element of the film which I enjoyed. Overall this was a definitively entertaining movie.
The plot itself isn’t very demanding in that it isn’t going to make you think very hard and it just guides you through this journey. So the film starts off by introducing us to the students who find Jumanji and enter its world; Spencer, Bethany, Fridge, and Martha played by Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Ser’Darius Blain, and Morgan Turner respectively. To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy this opening 10 minutes with these versions of the characters all that much, it may have had something to do with the fact that the marketing gets you hyped for the in-game versions of the characters but I wasn’t vibing with any of them initially. Then the main plot kicks in and we are thrown into the jungle with Dwayne Johnson playing Spencer, Jack Black as Bethany, Kevin Hart as Fridge, and Karen Gillan as Martha and the real fun begins. The pacing stumbles maybe once or twice throughout the film but from the point of entering the game onwards I enjoyed almost every moment. The chemistry between all of the characters is great and there are certain relationships in here which I completely bought into and was wholly invested in. They each shine when they’re on their own and interacting with each other, and it all leads to a whole bunch of laughs.
What is very well executed when considering the handling of the characters is that you can always tell who each character is despite being in a different body. One issue with the body-swap plot point is typically that the two different actors don’t feel like they’re playing the same character. For instance, when watching Dwayne Johnson I can see through the subtleties of his performance that it is Spencer in the body of Dwayne….. so what I’m getting at is that the personalities from the real character to the in-game versions of them are consistent throughout. Now I mentioned that the opening 10 minutes with the characters out of the game didn’t grab me initially. But I feel like if I was to watch this movie again I guarantee I would enjoy this opening sequence a lot more because of how attached I grew to the in-game versions of the characters the first on first viewing. They do each have a lot of comedic moments but they all also have a meaningful arc that makes each character incredibly likeable in their own individual way. Also, one way you can tell characters are all written very well is if upon leaving the film you can remember all of their names off the top of your head. And upon listing them off above I remembered each of their names without issue which I really like.
The comedy in here is surprisingly handled exceptionally well, a lot better than I thought it was going to be. I laughed a lot more than I had anticipated. There are the occasional misses and lines that don’t work as intended but I’d say 80% of the humour in here worked and there are quite a few big laugh out loud moments shared between all of the main cast. The only joke that ran on for a bit too long was regarding one of the characters asking about her phone but other than that I had a great time laughing. Visually there isn’t really anything to complain about because it looks pretty damn good. There is one moment where the cgi wasn’t a little more noticeable but it didn’t really bother me. One thing you just need to remember is that this is a video game, so stuff plays out differently to how they would in the real world and that helps to get through this movie without nitpicking certain details that may seem a bit off.
So in the end, thankfully this is a damn enjoyable movie with a lot of hilarious comedy, well written characters, and a simple plot that is engaging enough to where it is never boring. The movie is 2 hours long and that’s a perfect length for me, you could argue for it to be an hour and 50 minutes but I feel it works at the length it’s at. Even though this isn’t based on a real video game I guess you could still refer to it as a video game movie because of how integral a video game is to the plot. So if that’s the case you could say this is a very damn good video game movie and you wouldn’t be wrong. I’d say definitely check out Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle as it’s a great family adventure comedy that offers a lot to enjoy.