FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: Nothing screams Good Friday like “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” which stars Dwayne Johnson (Snitch, San Andreas), Kevin Hart (Ride Along, Get Hard), Jack Black (Nacho Libre, School of Rock ), Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Who [TV series]), Nick Jonas (Jonas [TV series], Camp Rock [TV Movie]), Rhys Darby (What We Do in the Shadows, Yes Man), Bobby Cannavale (Ant-Man, The Station Agent), Alex Wolff (Patriots Day, HairBrained), Ser’Darius Blain (The Last Full Measure, Survivor’s Remorse [TV series]), Madison Iseman (Still the King [TV series], Laid in America), and Morgan Turner (Invincible, Remember Me). It was directed by Jake Kasdan (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Bad Teacher), while the screenplay was written by Chris McKenna (Spider-Man: Homecoming, The LEGO Batman Movie), Erik Sommers (Crank Yankers [TV series], Spider-Man: Homecoming), Scott Rosenberg (Con Air, Gone in Sixty Seconds ), and Jeff Pinkner (Fringe [TV series], The 5th Wave). After getting stuck in detention, four teenagers are miraculously sucked into a video game called Jumanji. In the game, they represent four characters that all have unique abilities and weaknesses, and must traverse the game in hopes of escaping it; all with only three lives each.
Trust me, I was with most people when news of this film broke out: it was going to suck. How dare they reboot a movie that Robin Williams and co. already did gracefully? And to call it a sequel? Good grief, is there any creativity in Hollywood anymore? I wasn’t clamoring to see “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”; I don’t think anyone was. However, when the trailer dropped, I was surprised. It actually looked entertaining and funny. Of course, I still wasn’t prepping myself to see it in theaters, but at least the flick looked to have potential. Last night, with family, I finally sat down to see it, and all I can say is…what you see from the trailers is what you get: a fun, airy piece of entertainment that doesn’t blow you away, but gives you a somewhat good time nonetheless. Above all, I was happy it wasn’t lifeless and cringey. Basing a film on a video game concept involving teens of this present day (the stereotypical techno-heavy, idiot ones) is risky for an intelligent audience, but I think they pulled it off as best they could. You won’t find a deep connection with the characters, let alone heavy character development. What you are here for is the thrills and popcorn entertainment these comedians look to give you through big stunts, tons of CGI, and an array of jokes. The actors in this were fun (the big Hollywood stars; the actual teens were okay). The Rock is always entertaining, as are his co-stars. Him and Kevin Hart have proven their chemistry, and they further it in this adventure. Jack Black was exciting and funny in his portrayal of a teenage girl, and Karen Gillian surprised me with a character that wasn’t just…there (which most female supports in action flicks tend to be). On top of that, it was nice to see her out of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and in something else. All of these stars had to play opposite of what they normally would (besides Kevin Hart, who is still funny regardless), and that made for an interesting spin. Besides that, though, everything else is quite routine. Like most video games and popcorn movies, you have the heroes trying to stop a diabolical villain from obtaining something in order to carry out his evil deeds. This was a green stone that our main characters had to return to a statue…and that was it. Through the journey they had of getting to this statue, comedy ensues as well as many attempts at developing characters through simplistic tropes. We’ve seen what these teens are struggling with through other flicks. Besides a few gags I didn’t see coming, everything is binary; a sort of “been there, done that” kind of thing when it comes to a plot trying to be original. While I respected a fight for character development, it was so plain that it often came across as obnoxious and annoying. At the start of the game, the movie built itself around jokes and mocking at the mechanics of a video game. It was the sweet spot that made for a fun night, albeit it’s listlessness in deep writing. Whenever they veered from that and took themselves seriously, the quality faltered. It’s a shame, but then again the tone they established for themselves was extremely light, whereas the tone for the original “Jumanji” was dark and heavy, begging for a character study. If it’s any consolation, “Welcome to the Jungle” is entertaining and enjoyable, aside from most of its character moments. The first act excites, but begins to fade towards the end, most likely due to how comfortable we get with the video game joke. Once that disappears, the flick is like any other action/adventure/comedy. You’ll have a fun night, but other than that, there isn’t much to take away from “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” If you are curious of it, I say check it out. It certainly isn’t bad, nor as terrible as I thought it would be. You’ll just not get much depth nor freshness of a story. FINAL SCORE: 77%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: