JUMANJI!!!!! That’s right, Dwayne Johnson. We chose your movie for date night. You’re welcome. The wife and I needed a bit of a palate cleanser after watching a recent release for date night last week, and both of us wanted to have some fun with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. From the earliest plot news, I was interested to see the results. A tiny nerd gets trapped in The Rock’s body, a gigantic football jock gets trapped in Kevin Hart, Jack Black is a popular teenage girl, and Karen Gillan is an awkward, quirky redhead. The last one probably wasn’t that much of a stretch, but still.
The opening of the movie starts off about where you’d expect: someone finds the Jumanji board because of those damn jungle drums, and brings it home straight to his son Alex because that’s what you do when you find strange items on the beach. Alex happens to be a video game nerd, and tosses the board game to the side, which is why Jumanji ends up morphing into a video game console and sucks him in. And that is an allegory for social media…or maybe porn…or drugs….or maybe it’s just a silly premise.
Anyway, about 20 years go by and we meet Spencer, a nice Jewish boy who also likes video games and helps people with their homework for some damn fool reason. We also meet Fridge the football jock, Bethany the social media whore, and Martha the awkward but smart ginger. This was probably the lowest point in the movie for me. I can’t sit through high school drama type stuff, so I wanted to speed it along. It does help, though, to establish their different personalities so you can appreciate how the older actors incorporate them in the game world.
With different high school shenanigans, the 4 of them land in detention, and are forced into an old, musty section of the school. Not sure how the Jumanji console ended up at the school and no one else has touched it….maybe the game CHOSE THEM. Who cares. The movie really hits its stride when they get sucked into the game. This is where we get some of the most ridiculous jokes I’ve seen in a while. I mean, I knew most of them were coming, but the delivery is just spot on.
Having The Rock in anything is already going to make a lot of people happy, but having him act like a weak teenage boy who has just been implanted into the body of a demigod is soooooo much better. Kevin Hart is also perfect as a meathead jock who is forced into a tiny body that becomes The Rock’s sidekick. And Bravo to Jack Black for being so insanely ridiculous as a teenage girl it made me laugh my fucking ass off at parts. But the most props goes to Karen Gillan, who is one of the most INSANELY hot people in the world. I’m sure I’m supposed to be all enlightened or whatever the fuck these days and not comment on her looks, but good god she is attractive. She also has the best acting out of everyone else in the film. Her subtle little quirks to show the personality of an awkward nerdy teenager are great.
The McGuffin of the movie is a glowing green jewel that was stolen from a giant jaguar statue, and the protagonists have to put it back in a video game style world run by a madman who can control jungle creatures. The nods to a lot of video game tropes were probably more for people like me who plays them constantly, but they weren’t a big component of the movie if you miss them.
One of my biggest complaints of the movie comes in the form of one of my favorite New Zealanders, Rhys Darby. He’s only in the film a short while, but his talent is absolutely wasted. I got so excited when he showed up, but he was never really allowed to do his off the cuff brand of dry New Zealand humor I love so much. Still love the guy, though, but he should have been featured more.
The action sequences are also a high point. While some of them may be ridiculous, it makes sense in a universe created with video game rules. I can enjoy a good set piece or fight choreography even if the reason for them isn’t as fleshed out as I’d like. And though a lot of the interaction between characters is based in the ridiculous, there are some actual heartfelt moments I wasn’t really expecting, which made me appreciate the characters a little more.
All in all this was a fun movie to sit back and enjoy with the wife. Some dick jokes may cause it to not be such a great film for the kids, but older kids will surely get a kick out of it. I needed a film like this after being thoroughly disappointed in the last few outings to the cinema. *cough* Last Jedi *cough*