Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  You know where you are?  You're in Jumanji, baby!  You're gonna die!

Jumanji:  Welcome to the Jungle – 4 out of 5

Jumanji came out in 1995, the year I would move from middle school to high school.  At the time, I enjoyed it because I love Robin Williams and found the premise to be a lot of fun.  I revisited it here on my blog some years ago and still found the movie to be a decent family friendly adventure…although, those CG monkeys are awful to look at.  When it was announced that a reboot/sequel was going into production, I was kinda intrigued because the very nature of the story promotes the idea that there are more adventures to talk about.  However, being that we are drowning in toxic nostalgia these days, the 90s kids immediately rang out with cries about their childhoods being destroyed because the existence of a piece of media that no one is forcing them to ingest.  When I first saw the trailer to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, I was sold because it had The Rock in it and it looked fun as hell.  I didn’t get a chance to see it in the theater but decided to blind buy it recently when it was released on Blu-ray.  I don’t regret this purchase at all!

                                                                                                Sony Pictures Releasing
They're not here to destroy your childhood.  They're here to brings some fun
and laughs to your adulthood.

                                                                  Sony Pictures Releasing
They're like the kids in The Breakfast Club but
one of them turns into The Rock!
Four students; the brainy nerd Spencer (Alex Wolff), the jock Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), the popular girl Bethany (Madison Iseman) and the introvert Martha (Morgan Turner), are sent to detention for various reasons and stumble upon a video game system with a game called Jumanji.  Plugging it in to see what it is, the four students suddenly find themselves sucked into the game and thrown into a dangerous jungle.  Upon arrival, they are shocked to discover that they exist within avatars from the game; Spencer has become the hero Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Fridge is now the weapons carrier and zoologist Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), Bethany has turned into the worldly Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon (Jack Black), and Martha is now the fearsome fighter Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan).  They are informed that the evil Russel Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale) has stolen the sacred stone; the Jaguar’s Eye, and now has control over all the creatures of Jumanji.  Together, they must return the stone to its rightful place and lift the curse that now haunts the land.  The only problem is, this is a video game and they only have so many lives available and, when they are gone, it’s Game Over.

                                                                                               Sony Pictures Releasing
What did we ever do to deserve The Rock.

I’m just going to come out and say it; Jumanji:  Welcome to the Jungle is a whole lot of fun.  For the folks who rage against sequels and remakes because it shows “Hollywood is out of ideas” (just a reminder, hundreds of original films are released each year), this movie does a great job of crafting a new adventure without feeling like it is a rehash.  This movie is exactly what a sequel (that is also a reboot as it restarts the franchise) should be.  We have new characters in a new environment facing new dangers and conflicts but it still has the core essence of what the first film started.  Additionally, it’s just a cool idea to see the board game evolve itself for modern times in order to trap its next victims (like some gee-dee spider or something) and I really enjoyed how this one flipped the script and was about people from the real world being pulled into Jumanji rather than Jumanji pulling itself into the real world.  Basically, the story works so well as it is entertaining as all hell but also isn’t trying to be a totally different animal, the whole production feels like a natural evolution and the next organic step in the franchise.

                                                                                               Sony Pictures Releasing
Ruby Roundhouse is a badass name that deserves such a badass image.

Another reason this film worked so well is the cast.  Everyone involved knows exactly how to play each role and they all had such excellent chemistry together.  Additionally, you have four proven funny people all in the leads and each and every single one of them is nailing it.  Adding to that is the fact that no one is trying to upstage the other and they all end up working so effectively as a group—which is, coincidentally, a big theme of the film.  Other members of the cast like Nick Jonas as a boy who has been surviving in Jumanji since the 90s, Rhys Darby as an NPC who introduces the game to our heroes and Bobby Cannavale all round out this cast and help to make it an incredibly strong list of performers and to make the film as entertaining as it can be.

                                                                                               Sony Pictures Releasing
I don't normally pay attention to Nick Jonas' because his career isn't my cup
of tea but he was pretty damn good in this film.

The final aspect of the film that I really enjoyed was how right the film captured the video game tropes.  The moment they arrive in Jumanji, they are greeted by Darby as a NPC (Non-player character) who basically opens up the story and even provides them with a cut-scene to provide exposition and backstory.  Then there is the commentary and humor of Ruby’s short shorts and tiny tank top (poking fun at Lara Croft).  The film also incorporates “lives” into the process as each character has three lives and, when they are used up, they lose and its Game Over.  Finally, there is the over-the-top action that is brought in and, since it is a video game, suspension of disbelief is ridiculously easy and seeing Bravestone uppercut a bad guy into the stratosphere makes sense and only adds to the fun.  These simple moments and inclusions not only helped propel the story into the modern gamer era (although, board games are still relevant—the next film could be about role playing or MMORPG!) but they were just plain amusing and added to the overall entertainment value of the film and story.

                                                                                               Sony Pictures Releasing
Rhys Darby's part may be small but I love him so much that just having a
small piece of him in this film was a blessing!  Yep, that sentence will
probably get me a restraining order from Darby.

The only drawbacks I had for the film is the length and some of the teen-centric dialogue.  The movie runs at about 2 hours and while that’s not an unreasonable length it did kinda feel like it might have needed a little tightening up here and there.  The story and plot never drag and nothing really feels out of place but 2 hours might have felt a little too long for the feature.  Finally, some of the dialogue from the character of Bethany and spoken mostly by Jack Black is serviceable but does have many moments that feel like they were written by adults desperately trying to cram in current lingo and trying to sound young.  This isn’t terrible most of the time but there definitely moments here and there that it felt a little silly.

                                                                                                Sony Pictures Releasing
Imagine the burps that come out of that thing...
According to The Ghost and the Darkness they're farts coming out of that maw.

Jumanji:  Welcome to the Jungle does almost everything right and is not just a great sequel but an excellent way to kick off a potential franchise.  The movie has some great action and stunt sequences, the comedy was laugh out loud funny, the special effects were fantastic and the cast was just perfect.  I want to say that I liked this one more than the original but doing so would be sorta unfair, in my opinion.  While they exist in the same universe and the same franchise, they really aren’t the same films.  Both have their own unique stories and takes on the Jumanji adventure so I can’t really put one over the other but that doesn’t change how I found this one to be a very fun ride!

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