Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

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Since they’re remaking, or more like making a sequel, to Jumanji, they added the “Welcome to the Jungle” into the title. I immediately thought of these lyrics:

Welcome to Jumanji, they updated this game/They got everything you want, biggest Hollywood names

They are the people that will do, any script they see

They get paid lots of money, honey…but is this something to see?

In the jungle, welcome to the jungle

Watch it and bring your Red Vines and Jujubes…

So your wallet doesn’t bleed….

 

Okay, enough of that. So, I didn’t see the original in 1995, starring the late, great Robin Williams. I didn’t feel like I was missing much. It didn’t get good reviews, and some of those movies Williams did in the ‘90s…What Dreams May Come, Patch Adams, Flubber, Jack, Fathers’ Day...yikes.

I wasn’t looking forward to this version, except my wife and I kept laughing at the trailers. And watching Jack Black with a weird voice in the jungle, made me think of the fun Tropic Thunder. In that movie, it was Robert Downey Jr. (who would surprise everyone and get an Oscar nomination), doing the voice of a white Australian actor, in black face, playing an African-American soldier. In this, Jack Black plays a teenager girl obsessed with her looks and her cell phone. In an intro that starts like The Breakfast Club (one of many movies this film borrows from)…a group of high school kids on detention get sucked into this video game.

The set-pieces and production were cool, although the CGI could’ve been better. And, it also needed a few more animals, and less bad guys on motorcycles.

Alex Wolff plays Spencer, the nerd. When sucked into the game, he becomes the smoldering Dwayne “the rock” Johnson. The girl he has a crush on (Martha), is the only one that doesn’t have a Freaky Friday body switch that’s so different. She’s a bit sexier, and her power is “killing men.” This gives the bookworm some much needed confidence, as do some kind words from the snotty cheerleader, who turns into Jack Black.

The big football player (Ser’Darius Blain) becomes the short Kevin Hart. He does his usual Hart manicness, and it’s some welcome fun. There are clever scenes where he thinks he can still bully the nerd, even though he’s now in the body of the Rock. Of course, we saw similar scenes with those two in Central Intelligence, but again…it was fun here, too. Mostly because the movie had a bit of heart (no pun intended). There all the usual tropes you’ve seen before, but it’s a good family picture (albeit a PG one for some naughty bits)

Jack Black steals every scene he’s in as a narcissistic teen who has to be sensitive at times, as well as show he (she) is attracted to some of these guys when they do heroic stuff.

The villain is played by the always welcome Bobby Cannavale, who is trying to stop the gang from putting an emerald stone into the eye of a jaguar statue atop a huge mountain.

The rest of the cast included Karen Gillan, Jonas brother Nick, Tim Matheson in a small part, and one of the best comedic guys to cast in a movie — Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords, Hunt for the Wilderpeople).

It’s a good holiday flick to bring the family to. I brought a college student who had seen the original, and asked him what he thought. He said, “It didn’t possess the magic and mystery of the original I grew up on, but the jungle here is alive and filled with playful jokes, relatively fun characters, and decent direction. However, the highs don’t negate the movie’s cheesiness and lack of creativity.”

I’m giving it 3 stars out of 5.