When I was a child, Jumanji was mine and my sister’s jam. (cough, manji, cough. Jamanji.) We were obsessed with Robin Williams from Hook to Aladdin, even through Patch Adams and Bicenntial Man. The late comedic and Academy Award winning actor our household entertainment and Jumanji made us smile, laugh, and terrified us. It revolved around a story of a mystical board game and spits out jungle horrors whilst you are playing.
I saw someone tweet the other day that the classic doesn’t really hold up. Sure, the CGI effects look weird now but still the mystery and the edge keep you invested. It’s a good family romp. But does it need a reboot?
Well, no, not really. It certainly didn’t need Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. But no matter how unnecessary this reboot/remake/sequel amalgamation is, it is just so damn entertaining.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle revolves around a bunch of awkward teenagers who are your archetypical teen characters; The Jock, The Princess, The Brain, and The Outcast Sent to detention to clear out the basement of their school, they stumble upon a video game called…you guessed it…Jumanji. However, once they’ve picked their avatars and start the game, they wind up in the deepest heart of the jungle as the characters they’ve chosen. Now all they have to do is play the game and survive.
As a baseline for all remakes, the necessity of its existence pilfers any overall enjoyment of the movie. It’s a reminder that we cannot simply let movies lay in the nostalgia of the past. We must reshape and remodel them to be hip for this generation. There is a whole slew of bad movies with great premises and this new Jumanji adds to it. It’s a bit exhausting.
There’s also the issue of stereotypes. Now, I am all for subverting the tropes for a fun-filled action story and, in many ways, Jumanji has done exactly that. It addresses Karen Gillian’s short shorts as the boring “sexy scientist badass woman” cut-out and there is whole “believing in your true self” aspect of the aforementioned archetypes. But, as initially funny as Jack Black’s character Bethany is, it seems a bit hokey to see a grown-man slice a teenage girl down to modern day-ism and Tumblr-esque quips. As you giggle, there is an undercurrent of unease to it all.
That being said, the whole film is entertaining as fuck. That’s mainly because Dwayne Johnson will always be the ultimately action hero star. He is charming, oozing charisma out of his impressive muscles. He knows how to inhabit a character that is funny as well as the ultimate saviour. Bouncing through his dialogue and the explosions, Johnson steals every scene he is in. Kevin Hart, Gillian, and, yes, Black are all brilliant hilarious too. It’s a great ensemble. Heck, I even enjoyed the squinting heartthrob Nick Jonas.
No, this isn’t Robin Williams. And, yes, it has many issues that it tries to address but doesn’t do a complete job. Yet, for a fun-filled frolic in the forest, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle succeeds.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is out 20th December!