Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle ★★★★☆

The Jumanji reboot is almost as charming as the original, even if it begins to drag slightly after the first hour. I'll admit it. I'll watch anything starring Dwayne Johnson, (aside from The Fast and the Furious) so the Jumanji reboot ticks a lot of the right boxes. Most 90’s kids will have fond memories of the classic adventure film, but 1995 was a long time ago, and there’s always a chance that a semi-sequel could sully the memory.

While the loss of Robin Williams means that there’s no reprisal for Alan Parrish, an ensemble cast help to keep things moving at a rapid pace. The Rock is joined by Kevin Hart, (of course) Karen Gillan and Jack Black, with each representing a different teenager once they’ve been swept into Jumanji. The story follows the four as they’re sent to detention, forced to work in a basement as punishment for an array of offences. They soon get dragged into a retro looking Jumanji-themed console, with each given an avatar to help them navigate a land that has been corrupted.

There’s a loose story that involves a gemstone, as they progress through levels, (urgh) in an attempt to get home. They eventually meet up with Nick Jonas, who rounds off the characters in a supporting role. It’s packed with more action than the original, as they navigate a land filled with many of the common tropes you’ll find with video games. This includes spikes coming out of the ground, a terrible helicopter section, and each character having three lives to complete the adventure.

While the emphasis is on explosions and the potential loss of life, most of the actual fun is derived from the characters getting used to their new bodies, and the skills and weaknesses of each avatar.  The leader is Dr. Smolder Bravestone, (Johnson) with strengths including; speed, climbing, weapons proficiency, and smouldering intensity. In comparison, Kevin Hart’s avatar is Moose Finbar, with skills limited to zoology and being a weapons valet for Bravestone. Jack Black plays a professor being channeled by a teenage girl, while Gillan’s teenage equivalent doesn’t like having fun, and has to get used to her new found karate skills/womanly charms as Ruby Roundhouse.

It’s a bit angsty at times, (and there’s even a cliche love story mixed in)  but it manages to tie most of the elements together to create an enjoyable movie. Body-swap stories have been done to death in the past, while the video game format isn’t the freshest. Regardless, it only goes to show that solid performances by a talented cast are enough to make an average film interesting enough to see through to the end.

Jumanji will be sure to amaze a younger audience, but there’s also something there for returning viewers of all ages. Hart and Johnson have great chemistry as always, while Jack Black is in his element as he hams it up at every opportunity. Maybe it’ll be a little too action-packed for some, but it’s a welcome return after two decades away from screens, and you don’t have to be a fan of The Rock to think so.

Final Verdict: A welcome return to the jungle!


James Milin-Ashmore

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle at CeX

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