Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Movie Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

My wife and I went to see a pre-screening of "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" last night, and I never thought in my life that I would say this, but the sequel to Jumanji is really, really good.

The Actors:

Jack Black steals the movie. His performance as a teenaged selfie-obsessed pretty girl was easily the best "one sex trapped in another sex's body" performance I've ever seen (which is probably a low bar, but stay with me here). He was so incredibly good, that I was actually 100% convinced that I was not watching Jack Black, but an actual teenaged girl. He just completely disappeared into the role, and it was amazing to watch him work.

Dwayne Johnson was also fantastic playing a fantastic parody of himself. Though he didn't disappear into the role as much as Jack Black, his portrayal of an awkward nerd in a huge handsome muscular body was fresh and fun through the whole film. Special shout-out to Alex Wolff, who plays the real world kid who becomes Dwayne Johnson. Through Wolff's limited screentime, he portrays some great acting and comedic ability that left me wishing he'd been in more of the film.

Karen Gillan was the main actor I'm the least familiar with (I only know her from GotG), and I'm glad to say her acting was a pleasant surprise. Like Johnson, she's playing a social outcast girl in an athletic pretty girl's body, and she does it wonderfully. For the entire film she seems awkward in her body – often slouching over, crossing her arms, etc. – but even the facial expressions she'd make when she wasn't meant to be the center of the shot's focus were 100% in line with the concept of her character. Also of note is that, despite some controversy awhile back over the reveal of her tight and small outfit in this family film, her appearance is a part of the character's story arc and she's shot tastefully and not at all sexually.

Kevin Hart was Kevin Hart. I enjoyed his performance and he had plenty of laughs, but in the end he was the only one of the core four characters that didn't surprise me. He's supposed to be playing a big football player trapped in a small man's body, but Kevin Hart plays this like he does any other role where he shouts about how short he is. It never really felt to me like his identity was based on a life of being a tall muscular athlete.

Nick Jonas was in this movie. He shows up about halfway through and he does a good job. Nothing special, but he didn't pull me out of the experience.

The Story & Directing:

I went into this movie skeptical. For me, the original movie was fun because of Robin Williams but ultimately forgettable. The trailers for this movie, however, had piqued my interest enough for me to wait an hour in line for a chance to see it (and it turned out my wife and I were the last two people the theater had room for, because the two in front of us left when they found out the remaining seats were not together).

The story is a straight-up sequel and it was incredibly solid, coherent, and fun. This movie is the opposite of Jurassic World, in that almost everything mentioned in the first act is made relevant later in the film, including each of the avatar's listed strengths and weaknesses and the real-world character's faults, which ultimately makes it a very tight and competent story that feels like there's no wasted space or time. It was also really, really funny. The types of humor were pleasantly varied so that there were things I laughed at that nobody else did and vice-versa. There's something for everyone here. The bad guy was one-dimensional but it worked well for the setting.

This is also probably the best "video game movie" I've seen. It adapts video game tropes such as the idea of NPCs, levels, and multiple lives very well. Gamers will especially get a kick out of some of these gags.


(Click and drag your mouse to read)
The movie picks up where the last one left off. A dad in the 1990's is out for a jog on the beach, hears the drumming of the Jumanji board game, digs it out of the sand and brings it home to his son. His son opens the box, then laments "who plays board games anymore" then tosses it aside to play Playstation (I think it was Twisted Metal, specifically). Overnight, a bright green light emits from the board game and the boy wakes up to hear the iconic drumbeat. He opens the box to find that inside is now a cartridge of a Jumanji video game. He puts it into a console (resembling but not exactly a NES) and is sucked into the game. Cut to modern day and four kids are given detention (after some nice but quick character building), during which they find the game, select their characters, and are sucked into the game. Inside, they are represented by avatars that juxtapose their real-life selves, and realize they have to work together to win the game in order to escape. About halfway through they run into Nick Jonas, who is the avatar of the kid from the 1990s and lives in a shack built by none other than the original film's Alan Parrish (Robin Williams). They reveal to him that he's been in the game for 20 years and team up with him to escape. After beating the game by returning a magical crystal to where it was stolen from (which gives the guy who first removed it the ability to control all the animals in the jungle and a tendency to be evil), they are all returned to the real world, where they're all friends now (and the two nerds who developed a relationship during the game are now a couple) and find out that Nick Jonas' character returned back to his time and has lived out a great life for the past 20 years and named his daughter after Jack Black's character since she saved his life. The group returns to school on Monday and again hears the drumming of the game, so they smash it with a bowling ball that was mentioned earlier in the film.

Closing Thoughts:

Overall, this is a good movie and I recommend people go see it with some family and/or friends if they're looking for a good fun time at the theater. It continues the spirit of the original movie and surprised me with its quality. The acting, directing, and writing is all solid. The jokes are funny and varied, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the lines from this movie became popular quotes or memes. The action is fun and well-shot.

This review was first posted on Reddit by me.

1 comment:

GranTorino said...
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