Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
The current Jumanji movie, which was released in December 2017, promptly kicked Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s butt and is still playing in theaters almost four months later with pretty good attendance. The first Jumanji starring Robin Williams, came out in 1995 and though it made decent money got no love from the critics, this one included. Robin Williams was a big name back then, one of the funniest people ever and quite a successful actor. This came near the end of his Big Movie days, and he was trying so hard to be funny in Jumanji that he never actually got there. Also, in 1995 cgi was new and the filmmakers tried to do too much with it, resulting in massively fake looking creatures. There just wasn’t enough of anything else besides an okay idea to move it into good movie territory.
What a difference twenty years makes. The big star this time around is Dwayne Johnson, who comes to the movies by way of the wrestling ring instead of the comic circuit. He’s also a really funny guy, as evidenced by the laugh he gets just by raising an eyebrow. The current Jumanji is a movie of stereotypical characters set inside a computer game full of npcs (non player characters), working within a formulaic plot, which creates an interesting depth of story you don’t normally get with a movie loaded with stereotypes. All the characters have a Life Lesson To Learn, like how to work well with others, or how to be cool with yourself. This time around, each of the “real” characters is drawn into the elderly video game version of Jumanji and have to quickly come to terms with the latter life lesson, as each is stuck inside what might seem as the wrong body.
The virginal nerd is played by Dwayne Johnson, and there are many jokes made about the size of his biceps. Because he’s a gifted comedian, it’s funny every time. Jack Black plays the fille fatale trope (an adolescent or younger girl who knows how to use her looks to get what she wants), so completely addicted to her phone she makes everyone’s life miserable. The lordly jock is played by Kevin Hart, who stands about three feet tall in his shoes, and there are many, many jokes made about his size. Including during the pee break scene, which was hilarious.
Everything is hilarious for kids and adults alike using the new formula of adult jokes in the kid movie, though Jumanji is weighted far closer to adult this time around. They use every tool, from our deep understanding of the stereotypes to our familiarity with the plot formula, to throw a barrage of plot and character driven jokes at us. It’s not funny solely because they wear us down with the sheer number, but because the jokes are inspired, about everything from learning how to kiss, to body-type humor, to computer game in-jokes, and many dick jokes.
I will say that some of these incessant jokes may be insulting, like the sequence about a young woman learning to use her good looks to her advantage. Or you may not appreciate the quick but deft zinger about the emasculating mother. There are insults for everyone at some time in the movie.
anji doesn’t have a deep message, it’s one we’ve seen many time before. The acting is fine for what we’re watching, only this time the professional funny guy nails his performance of a confused young woman stuck in Jack Black’s body rather than Robin Williams’ stratospherically over the top routine. The cgi is seamless, sometimes giving us a shivery creepy scene that might haunt your dreams but mostly enhancing the film instead of drawing you out of it. If you’re nostalgic about early computer games, if you don’t mind a formulaic plot with reams of jokes, if you want to laugh despite yourself sometimes, please do see this movie. I think you will be glad you did.
JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE – Official Trailer (HD)