More than twenty years since Jumanji won our hearts with low-fi special effects, a plot that revolved around nothing more high-tech than a board game, and a cast lead by Robin Williams at his zany best, it’s back for a souped up sequel.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle reworks the immersive game story for a generation who grew up clicking the video game controls rather than rolling dice. But, thanks to the mid-nineties references and the decidedly retro nature of the games console there’s still plenty of schlocky charm.
After enough real world backdrop to establish the four teenagers as nerd, jock, hottie and swot, the adventure begins. A strange old video game hidden on a shelf is much more appealing than detention, so they plug it in and chose a character to play as.
And there’s the twist: as these kids are sucked into the virtual world of the game, they are transformed into their avatars and dumped in the middle of the jungle.
Wimpy, weedy Spencer Gilpin becomes a brawny beefcake, with a penchant for smouldering and saving the world. Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson – whose tough-guy muscles power innumerable fast car franchises – is hilarious as the hulky hero with the inner mind of a frightened mummy’s boy.
The real muscly cool guy becomes a diminutive zoologist sidekick whose top skill is carrying around the hero’s weapons.
Self-absorbed beauty Bethany selected to play as Shelly the ‘curvy genius’. In Jumanji world this means Sheldon, a paunchy professor played by Jack Black with plenty of high-pitched horror and adolescent eye-rolling.
It’s the shy, bookish redhead who gets to fill the Sexy Action Babe video game trope as she becomes Ruby Roundhouse, Killer of Men - played with spark and lethal dance moves by Guardians of the Galaxy's Karen Gillan.
The body-swapping is fertile ground for silliness, as the teens navigate the foreign land in even more foreign bodies. Just like the proverb promises, there’s nothing like walking in somebody else’s shoes to teach empathy. And fighting off herds of white rhinos or joy-riding a helicopter as a totally new person certainly helps these teens to feel more comfortable about their own true selves.
These avatars and the whole video game structure are more gimmicky than the other world narrative of the original Jumanji film (or indeed The Breakfast Club structure echoed in the opening).
It’s unlikely to stand the test of time in the same way.
But the combination of action and silly comedy make Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle an easy, entertaining and crowd-pleasing family film for right now. And, with cold dark nights and plethora of different family members to entertain, that's all we really need.
|What||Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
20 Dec 17 – 20 Dec 18, TIMES VARY
|Price||£ Determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more information|