Many films that I grew up with have started to be reborn or sequel-ised. I want to protect the memory and the sentiments that I carried from the original films. I avoided the remake of Ghostbusters – and if (and a massive IF) for example, a sequel or a remake of Stand By Me were to be made, I would probably scream in disappointment also. When I heard that a new Jumanji movie had been made, I was hugely skeptical. I read that the new movie is somehow a continuation of the much loved 1995 version and since I was after a lighthearted movie post-Christmas, I brought my wife along to see Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
In the original Jumanji, the story revolves around a boardgame that pops a card after each player moves. Everything that the card describes, will then happen in real life, with disastrous consequences. The last scene in the original film shows the board half-buried in the sand, with a girl inquiring in French about the ominous drumming sound (if you’ve seen the movie, you know that the drumming sound is baaaad). Well, in the sequel, the board is back in the US, somehow – in 1996. A father discovers the board half-buried in the sand and brings it home to his son, Alex Vreeke (Mason Guccione). When Alex mutters that nobody plays boardgames anymore – somehow, during the night it transforms itself into a videogame cartridge within the box. Complete with the drumming sound. Alex is intrigued to play and then gets sucked into the game. (This is the first queue to park your questioning logic and just to go with the flow!)
Flash forward to 2017 when four teenagers are sent to detention – Spencer (Alex Wolff), a nerdy hypochondriac; ‘Fridge’ (Ser’Darius Blain), a sporty student and Spencer’s childhood friend; Martha (Morgan Kaply), another nerdy student; and Bethany (Madison Iseman), a self-absorbed phone and social media addict. Spencer discovers the old game unit, still with the Jumanji cartridge attached in the basement detention room, and is driven by his curiosity to see what it is. They pick different avatars in the game – Spencer picks Dr Smolder Bravestone, Fridge picks Franklin “Mouse” Finbar, Martha picks Ruby Roundhouse; and Bethany is left with Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon. Jumanji then sucks them into the game – Spencer (Dwayne Johnson) is a strong archaeologist/explorer with no listed weaknesses. Mouse (Kevin Hart) is a zoologist who can’t stand cake and has strength and speed issues. Shelly (Jack Black) is a cartographer who doesn’t possess good endurance, and Ruby (Karen Gillan) is a commando, fighter, and a dance artist who cannot stand any venom.
They quickly realise that they have to work together as a team to finish the game, as it is the only way out of it.
I’m not going to spoil too much of the storyline, as it is really a fun, lighthearted movie to see – but as I’ve mentioned before, do not question its logic too much, just go with the flow. The movie is PG-rated, so it’s meant to be quite light to be absorbed by children as well. There is also an homage to the original Jumanji with a wood carving of “Alan Parrish was here”. Alan Parrish is the name of Robin Williams’ character in the original film.
I enjoyed the movie a lot – the dialogs are witty and fresh, and the four actors really bring the story alive. The disconnections between their real persona and their avatar are the source of many jokes, as well as key message for the viewer. There is a slight dig against teenagers who are obsessed with social media, their phone, and their being self-absorbed. Kevin Hart and Jack Black really carry the humour well in the movie, whilst Dwayne Johnson also makes the character relatable somehow. The moral of the story is packaged well into the conversations without it sounding too forced or contrived. All in all, I’d recommend this, if you’re unsure whether you’d like this as much as the original one.
The original film will always be special, of course. However, give this one a go as well – it has proven itself to be worthy of its sequel. Just don’t over-analyse! 😉