The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic:
on JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE (2017, 119 minutes, PG-13)
The Quick of It -
Sorry, nothing will ever match the original film thanks to the brilliance of Robin Williams. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t explore more of the delightful ‘game’… as is proven here.
WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE, gratefully in my eyes, is a subtle continuation of the first. This ‘attention hound’ board game finds a new way to push itself in peoples’ faces, pulling them into the fantastical world. To be relevant in this day and age, the board game changes itself into a video game to entice its unsuspecting prey. Of course, that makes it irresistible to our youth.
Four high schoolers are sent to detention for the ‘typical’ reasons and tasked with pulling staples out of magazines in a grungy, over-filled storage room. During this tedious punishment, one of the miscreants finds the Jumanji video game and everyone eventually gets talked into playing this retro-styled game.
Bam. The Jumanji stampede begins…
The cast stars some of the greatest picks for in-game avatars available in Hollywood – Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan (best known as Nebula in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY). Without a doubt, Jack steals the show, which says a lot. Dwayne and Kevin already have a chemistry proven to entertain from there pairing in CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE. Jack’s ‘I’m a prissy, phone-obsessed teenage girl’ impression is so fantastic, you cannot wait for his next line. And with Karen playing such a loveable badass, you cannot think of too many flaws in these casting choices.
WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE rounds out the key pieces for such a straight forward production with some strong behind-the-camera selections to make this a movie you would not expect to be so loveable. Director Jake Kasdan continues to prove he has the comedic streak running. His previous projects amidst his big screen ventures include ORANGE COUNTY, BAD TEACHER, and SEX TAPE. The veteran cinematographer eye of Gyula Pados (of MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS and THE DEATH CURE, THE DUCHESS, PREDATORS) paints a visual picture that gives credence to the concept designs for an actual jungle-based video game when brought to life. You have everything to “Make Jumanji Great Again.”
The only troubles I had come from stretching the tons of potential video game play set-ups into this one film and the slight cheese pushed on you by the leading villain Van Pelt, played by Bobby Cannavale (of THE STATION AGENT, ANT-MAN, and PARKER), and his cronies. The script was simple, even if written by a handful of people, being more interested in getting the laughs than character development or scene interaction. Still, you really couldn’t ask for more.
Take the Jumanji over-the-cliff plunge. It will lighten your day.