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Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – Movie Review

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Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – Movie Review

Rating: C (Average)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Sony Pictures

Making a sequel to Jumanji was inevitable ever since the first film was a major box-office smash. It’s been stuck in development hell for a while as screenwriters and producers have tried to figure out how to do more than just animals rampaging through the city. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle certainly opts for a clever premise by both reversing the concept and making it a nod to video games, rather than board games. It’s unfortunate the result mostly rests on cheap jokes and the standard running and jumping around. Its cast is certainly game and the tie-ins to the previous films are nicely implemented, but it’s otherwise fairly disposable with not much under the surface.

So much of Welcome to the Jungle rests on its humour, which sadly falls mostly flat. Using a screenplay credited to two writing teams (and likely more left uncredited), the most clever jokes come from the mockery of video game conventions. Rhys Darby seems to particularly enjoy himself as an exposition-spewing guide. However, even then, the film doesn’t take full advantage of the premise. Most of the action scenes, while solidly directed by Jake Kasdan, tend to primarily involve the characters running through the jungle and escaping animals. A lot of the humour tends to be low-brow, making this not nearly as family-friendly as the earlier Jumanji movie. Parents may be put off by just how off-colour the comedy is here.

Jack Black certainly tries his best as the teenage girl transported into a chubby male avatar, but it’s all fairly one-note. Welcome to the Jungle has a surprising amount of penis jokes and the filmmakers milk them whenever possible. Dwayne Johnson is somewhat able to make fun of his usual action hero persona and Kevin Hart does his expected routine. The funniest actor ends up being the least broad, comedy-wise, as Karen Gillan is able to be the straight woman to the more outlandish personalities surrounding her. She has the most fitting reactions to everyone else and gets some solid physical comedy bits. The weakest link of the cast is Bobby Cannavale as the central villain, although it could be argued video game baddies are often weakly written.

As little as Welcome to the Jungle resembles its predecessor, the film does succeed at respecting the mythology as well as expanding on it. There’s a sweet tribute to Robin Williams and the game is still as sneaky as it was before. The subplot involving a young man who has been trapped in the game for twenty years feels genuine  As obvious and slightly over-sentimental as the characters’ arcs are, the filmmakers do try and develop them, even in their new avatar bodies. It’s a shame the film as a whole mostly rests on stupid humour and the story has no surprises to it.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is complete fluff, although the previous Jumanji movie was hardly an untouchable masterpiece. There were just many opportunities here to create a humourous satire on video game conventions and the film just barely scratches the surface. A lot of the attempts of humour don’t work and are left to the actors to pick up the pieces. There is genuine care here on Jake Kasdan’s part, so nobody can accuse this of being a cheap cash-in, resting on the nostalgia of the earlier film. However, there’s not a whole lot there and few of its images will resonate beyond Christmas.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE

Stefan Ellison