Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle - Even The Rock can't save this one
With Hollywood embarking on a spree of 90s reboots, from Power Rangers to It, Jumanji was one title that nobody thought needed a do-over. The Robin Williams-starrer was a hit when it first released, and has aged surprisingly well for a movie about a magical board game. However, when Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was announced, with Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Kevin Hart, and Jack Black involved, most people were willing to keep an open mind.
Unfortunately, despite exciting trailers and an all-star cast, the movie simply doesn't hold a candle to the original. Funny in short bursts, but ultimately unimpressive, this might have worked as an SNL sketch, but certainly doesn't as a feature film.
The plot centres around four high school classmates who get sucked into the world of Jumanji after discovering a dusty videogame while stuck in detention in the school basement.
On entering Jumanji, the foursome – Spencer (Alex Wolff), the nerd, "Fridge" (Ser'Darius Blain), the jock, Bethany (Madison Iseman), the hot girl, and Martha (Morgan Turner), the misfit – find out that not only are they a long way from home, but they've also turned into the characters they chose on the game.
Spencer is now Dr Smoulder Bravestone (The Rock), Fridge is Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart), Bethany is Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black), and Martha is Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). They now also have the strengths and weaknesses of their in-game characters. Together, they set out to save the world of Jumanji by returning a magical gem to its rightful place, thwarting the plans of the evil Van Pelt who wants the gem to control Jumanji.
A lack of imagination
Right from the start, the movie shows a clear lack of imagination. The teens adhere so strongly to Hollywood tropes there's almost nothing new to bring to the table. All their quirks are ones we've seen time and time again, and the resultant humour is also stale as a result. Pointing out that hot girls like to take selfies is not original, but rather lazy and uninspired. Similarly, reiterating Hollywood stereotypes about geeks and jocks also does nothing for a viewer who is spoilt for choice.
That being the case, the transformation into their in-game characters is a welcome relief. The contrast between their real world and Jumanji personas is amusing, and their struggle to come to terms with the change is amusing. But only for a few minutes. While the trailer would like you to believe this concept can sustain an entire movie, that simply isn't the case. It gets old really fast.
This isn't, by any means, an indictment of the cast. The Rock, Hart, Black and even Gillan all do what they're supposed to, and it works every now and then. It's just that the writers of the film never seem to go beyond the obvious, leaving a decent cast trapped in an endless cycle of mediocrity. And cyclical it certainly is, with jokes repeated over and over until the audience is convinced that Jumanji is one large cave and all we're hearing are echoes.
The plot is no better than the humour, with a slow, unoriginal progression that never once leaves one surprised or impressed. Where the original Jumanji shocked audiences with a visual spectacle almost unimaginable at the time, the special effects in this one look a few years past their sell-by date. What's worse, the film-makers' decision to have the teens sort out their real world issues while in the game only adds another layer of corny on top of what is already a hot mess.
Should you see it?
Absolutely not. Selling nostalgia is one thing, but doing it this badly is just not on. Steer well clear.