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|Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle|
dir Jake Kasdan
scr Chris McKenna, Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, Erik Sommers
prd Ted Field, William Teitler, Matt Tolmach, Mike Weber
with Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale, Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Ser'Darius Blain, Morgan Turner, Missi Pyle, Tim Matheson
release US/UK 20.Dec.17
17/US Sony 1h59
Avatars: Johnson, Mullan, Black and Hart
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
There's one fundamental problem with this movie: it all takes place inside a videogame, which means that the characters and situations are all virtual, which keeps them from being very exciting. That said, the filmmakers seriously go for broke, filling scenes with riotous action and sparky comedy. So it's relatively entertaining as long as you can ignore how simplistic and obvious everything is.
While on detention, four teens discover the vintage videogame Jumanji. Shy brain Spencer (Wolff), social media princess Bethany (Iseman), athlete Fridge (Blain) and basket case Martha (Turner) are suddenly propelled into a jungle alternate reality in which they, respectively, become adventurer Smolder Bravestone (Johnson), Professor Shelly Oberon (Black), sidekick Moose Finbar (Hart) and action girl Ruby Roundhouse (Gillan). And they're now tasked with saving Jumanji by restoring a giant jewel stolen by an archaeologist (Cannavale). Along the way, they also meet Alex (Jonas), who has no idea how long he's been stuck here.
The filmmakers seem to think that, since this story has a gaming premise, they can get away with glaringly contrived writing and sub-par digital effects. But that only further undermines any real sense of dread. The characters may only have three lives in this game, but there's never any possibility that one of them will lose their last one. And the preposterous nature of the level-by-level plot never allows space for anything more interesting to happen either in relationships or self-discovery.
That said, there's still an escapist charm at work here, and the cast is largely to thank for this. Johnson gleefully plays on his uber-hunk charm, Hart indulges in his sassiest banter, and Gillan gets to combine Martha's inner dork with a Lara Croft-style of action fierceness. But it's Black who has the most fun channeling a 16-year-old girl, especially when he can't help but develop an instant crush on Nick Jonas.
While the movie appears to be aimed at a family audience, there's a strange hyper-violent attitude that, while never too explicit, is much harsher than necessary. And the gross-out jokes go a couple of steps too far for younger viewers. For everyone else, this is the kind of movie that isn't too bad once you switch off your brain. It's fast and silly, full of unthreatening action and easy jokes. And most bizarrely, it ends up as somewhat askance take on The Breakfast Club.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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