Two nights ago I was so desperate I watched Jumanji – Welcome to the Jungle.
Now, first things first: I don’t like to original Jumanji.
OK, Robin Williams, great special effects, fun premise and all that but I guess I was too old when it first came out.
When the new movie came out, I saw the usual hue and cry on Facebook, people tearing their hair off because someone was killing their childhood, and other people complaining about the female lead’s costume.
Business as usual on Facebook1.
So, what’s this thing I’m talking about?
The original movie was about a bunch of people that got trapped into a game, and had to play it to the end to get out. The new movie is about a bunch of people that get trapped into a videogame, and have to play it to the end to get out.
Stealing a page or two from The Breakfast Club (my goodness…), this iteration of Jumanji pulls together four unlikely partners in adventure: a nerd, a jock, a princess and an outcast, that get in detention after school hours. Then the movie sucks them in the video game, and the nerd is Dwayne Johnson, the outcast girl is Dr Who’s Karen Gillan in full Lara Croft get-up, the jock is fun guy Kevin Hart and the bitchy princess is Jack Black.
This makes the movie complicated because you basically get one straight character (Martha, played by Gillan) and three funny guys – because let’s not beat around the bush: Dwayne Johnson is a great action star, but he’s also a great funny guy.
Building a movie around three competing comedians can be hard unless they are the Marx Brothers, and in this sense sometimes feels tired.
The rest of the plot is just your linear old-school adventure game – and while we don’t actually see a single pixel of the actual videogame, it’s easy to imagine the “Jumanji” game as being a point-and-click quest in the same style of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis or Flight of the Amazon Queen.
The characters bicker, learn to work together, go over some very minor challenges (real point-and-click games were hard!), face the big bad guy, complete the game and are back in their lives as better people, and friends.
They smash the Jumanji console.
Which is a pity, really, because the original ending was different, and more promising…
Originally when Alex [Wolff] and Morgan [Turner] kiss, we start hearing the drums again and then everyone gets the game downloaded on their phones. Then it’s like, ‘Oh, shoot! We’re all going to be sucked in.’
Good hook for a sequel.
Because, really, while the movie is sometimes tired and the final level of the game is pretty lame and confused, and it’s no Breakfast Club at all, the whole thing holds up and it’s a fun way of spending an evening.
Not as fun as spending an evening playing Flight of the Amazon Queen, maybe, but fun.
It’s the cast, really, that saves this movie.
And it might have been fun seeing Johnson, Gillan, Black and Hart together again for a second run in some Android-based Jumanji thing.
- there are days I am reminded of the old practice of visiting Bedlam to laugh at the madmen’s shenanigans… then I realize it’s only Facebook. ↩