What’s The Movie?Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle
What’s It All About, JG? On one hand it’s about taking even the most slender of brand recognition and seeing just how much blood can be squeezed from the stone of vague 90’s nostalgia. On the other it’s about getting a bunch of well-known actors to ham their way through a few set-pieces tenuously linked together by video-game logic. This version of Jumanji re-imagines the original’s board game as a computer game into which our four heroes get inexplicably sucked, and gives them the task of lifting the curse off the land of Jumanji by returning a jewel to the eye of the statue of a jaguar. Along the way our four disparate individuals will learn to appreciate each other while hacking their way through a bunch of Lara Croft/Indiana Jones clichés. Can they reach the end and lift the curse? What do you think?
Why Did You Give It A Go? The bossy Australian of Skyscraper fame again. This was the movie she insisted would prove the value of pointing a camera at The “Dwayne Johnson” Rock while everyone else has a fun time around him. Having waited for a moment where I could sneak it on without too much embarrassment I finally caved in and gave it a watch.
Is It Any Good? Well it’s a lot better than Skyscraper, that’s for sure, though I don’t think I’d apportion the word “good” to it either. It’s very clear that the cast had a whale of a time making it, but their obviously enjoyment at getting paid to dick around for a couple of hours doesn’t always manage to translate from screen to viewer. There are moments where parts of the film clearly work – Jack Black being cast as a vacant, phone-obsessed teenage girl stuck in a middle-aged man’s body ought to be a recipe for absolute disaster, giving Black the chance to fully indulge his schtick and ham up every scene to insufferability, yet he ends up being rather charming and likeable which was highly unexpected. Karen Gillan as the movie’s Croft-alike is rather wasted, as is Kevin Hart, and despite both getting their moment in the spotlight kind of fade away. The “Dwayne Johnson” Rock is obviously the big draw here and he’s… fine. What’s true of him is true of all the four main leads here – it’s clear that Johnson, Hart, Gillan and Black have the scope to really play against type (Johnson as a bit of a shy scardey-cat, Black as sweet etc) but the film mostly declines to let them have the chance to do that. There’s odd moments, but that’s it. Gillan has proven she can hold the screen over at the MCU, but she gets no chance to do so here (the editing of her fights comes across as especially clumsy), and Hart barely feels like he’s in the movie at all. There’s glimmers of the performances but the script is too busy patting itself on the back at its own cleverness to allow those performances to take centre stage. And the plot itself is an absolute strand of nothing – a kitten fart could blow it away – as the characters shuttle their way between the most obvious set-pieces imaginable (The Big Fight, The Dangerous Vehicle etc). The logic of the script here is definitely beholden to video game structure, which is fine – complete one level, move to the next one, face the Big Bad, game over – but by making everything so obvious it never manages to become engaging. The results, while not terrible, are rarely better than “eh” either. Competent but mostly bland and unrelentingly unremarkable, Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle manages all-too-well to capture the sprit of the original – it’s completely forgettable.
How Many Of These Films Did You Watch? I saw the original on VHS back in the 90’s. Literally the only thing I remember about it comes not from the film, but from an interview Robin Williams did at the time where he described the process of trying to pretend a tennis ball on a stick was some dangerous monster. Says it all, really.
Would You Recommend It? Maybe for parents looking to give their kids some moving colours to focus on for a couple of hours while they enjoy some gin halfway up the stairs. Or for horny teenagers looking for an excuse to stick something on before getting down to some heavy petting. For anyone else though, it’s hard to see what the point of watching it is. Sorry, bossy Australian friend, but Mr Johnson here convinces in the same way he did in Skyscraper – there’s a brief moment or two when it looks like he might get to do something interesting, then doesn’t. He’s not bad here – nobody’s bad here – but it’s still hard to get worked up about. It’s not like this is a difficult two hours to sit through, though the running time deserves a mention because, less credits, it’s a mercifully short one hour fifty minutes, a refreshing change from the usual blockbuster bloat even though it could still lose a good five minutes at the start. But recommend it? Nah.
Scores On The Doors? 6/10