Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Review of JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE: Goofy Gamers

January 9, 2018



The first film called Jumanji (directed by Joe Johnston) was shown in 1995. Starring the late Robin Williams and then child star Kirsten Dunst, it was a fantasy adventure film, based on a 1981 children's book by Chris Van Allsburg. The plot was about a board game which wreaked real-life havoc once in play, only to stop and reverse when someone wins. This film was memorable for its special effects showing stampeding jungle animals through the city. Seemingly from out of nowhere, a sequel opens in local cinemas this week. 

Like the first film, this sequel is also about a game called Jumanji. The board game had now morphed itself into a video game. There were four high school kids -- scrawny nerd Spencer (Alex Wolff), football player "Fridge" (Ser'Darius Blain), square unathletic Martha (Morgan Turner) and selfie-addict Bethany (Madison Iseman)  who found themselves in detention. When they were tasked to clear out the basement, they found an old video game console with a Jumanji game cartridge.

When they turned the console on and began play, the four teens were teleported into the game world, morphed into their respective avatars. Spencer is now the bull-like alpha-male Dr. Smolder Bravestone. "Fridge" became a runty zoologist and weapons valet "Mouse." Martha turned into a sexy martial arts fighter Ruby Roundhouse. Bethany chose to be Prof. Shelly Oberon, who turned out to be an overweight MALE cartography expert. 

Using the respective skills of their avatars, they were supposed to figure out clues and fight off various dangers in order to restore a missing jewel back into a giant jaguar statue located deep in the jungle in order to exit of the game and go back into real life. Again like the first film, the sequel involved a time warp where players from the present timeline meet someone who played the game twenty years ago, this time in the person of Alex in his avatar form as a pilot named "Seaplane" (Nick Jonas).

In the first film where, the disasters brought about by the game were happening in the real world. However in this sequel, the destructive adventures were only limited within the confines of the game world. The sense of danger for the heroes and the people and things around them was therefore somewhat of a lesser degree than in the original. On the other hand though, as we know from video games, each character only has three lives that they could use up. Lose that last life, and they will actually die. 

Aside from the action scenes, which all know Dwayne Johnson and Jack Black could do based on their previous films, I found it funny how these senior actors were acting like their teenage counterparts. It was hilarious how uber macho Johnson got startled at animal sounds or fumbled while kissing a girl. Black was likewise delightful as he channeled a girly-girl teenager, especially when he was teaching Ruby (Karen Gillan) how to act seductive in the most awkward way. Kevin Black was acting much like his usual screen character only -- a childish little man. I do not see much from his teen jock personality. 

Honestly, I can already see how the whole film will turn out even after watching the trailers. Of course, it is also easy to decry the lack of original popcorn flick ideas, as this one was again based on a much older hit movie. It literally looked a video game (in proper context), but the fun interactions of the lead cast was infectious to the viewers. Call it shallow and silly, but I still cannot deny its overall entertainment value. 6/10.


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