Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Review
As I get older I start looking at films differently and forget what some films are intended for, that not all of them have to be epics or works of art and that some are just made to be enjoyed by all ages. This is exactly what Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle gets right. The original Jumanji was released at the perfect time for me when I was growing up, with it being a film I am extremely fond of, and even more so after the passing of comedy and acting legend Robin Williams. Jumanji really captures the essence of Robin Williams, creating big shoes to fill for the lead character within this sequel, but, to be honest, there was no better person at this time to try and take on this task than Dwayne Johnson.
The link between the Jumanji jungle and the world we live in, is a board game, which, as you play, will either release parts of Jumanji into the real world or suck you into its hell. With board games becoming a thing of the past and more and more kids wanting to play computer games, Jumanji manifests itself as a games console, which sucks anyone who plays it into the jungle itself.
Like the original film, the Jumanji game is found by a group of unlikely kids, who find it during detention, and, in their innocence, give the game a go, only to be sucked into it, becoming the avatars they chose from the game’s main menu.
Spencer, a young geeky kid, takes on the avatar Dr Smolder Bravestone, played by Dwayne Johnson. Fridge, the football jock, becomes Franklin “Mouse” Finbar. Bethany, the popular girl at school who is obsessed with her phone, funnily becomes Jack Black’s character Sheldon “Shelly” Oberan and Martha, the extremely clever but lonely girl at school, takes on the attractive and badass Ruby Roundhouse, played by Karen Gillan. The great thing about all these avatars is that they all possess skills which are the exact opposite to their real life selves, creating this backbone to the story of teaching these kids to look beyond themselves.
Now that the kids are stuck in Jumanji, as the avatars they chose, the only way out is to complete the game of returning the stolen Jewel back to Jaguar Mountain, and in turn, stripping the evil Van Pelt of his power and his reign over Jumanji. What makes this adventure so fun is that it takes on the template of a computer game; each character has 3 lives, which are tattooed on their forearms. There is also a map which reveals levels, and the people within the game act like programmed AI which can only respond to certain types of questions or interactions.
There wasn’t much reference to the original within this film, but their were some hints that I enjoyed. For starters, they pulled parts from the original score by James Horner, which I love, as this kind of thing really rings home. Also there is a nod to Robin’s character Alan Parrish, which I won’t spoil, but was again a nice touch.
Where the film lacked for me was the Jumanji Jungle itself. It didn’t seem to be as dangerous as the original film made out. There were no crazy monkey’s or living monsterous plants, it just seemed like a normal jungle with a mystical vibe running through it. I expected it to be a bit more scary. Also the CGI was pretty bad in parts, which is something that really grates on me. There is no excuse for bad CGI these days.
Jumanji isn’t going to be winning any awards anytime soon, but it is, however, a film with a lot of heart, one all ages can enjoy. Before I end this review I have to give a shout out to Jack Black’s performance, playing a teenage girl, as it is nothing short of brilliant and really had me laughing at parts. Films like this can easily become a mess, but I think Jumanji manages to get a good balance of adventure whilst telling a meaningful story. Nothing will ever beat the original, but this isn’t what the film tries to do, it is simply a continuation of something we already love.