I still remember the first time I saw the original Jumanji, back in fourth grade. It was the type of movie my parents would have banned at the time (it reminded them too much of a Ouija board, which was possibly the most demonic toy ever manufactured, or something). And in fact, they had initially discouraged me from seeing it. But a girl in my class who had few friends and didn’t get to do a lot of fun things had invited my Mom and I to go with her and her Mom to see this. Mom felt sorry for her, and said we could go. Mom didn’t like the movie (for previously mentioned reasons) but I loved it. I still love it to this day. The sense of adventure and magic and mystery and suspense is unparalleled in 90’s kids movies. Plus bonus Robin Williams.
The new Jumanji had me really excited. It seemed to be an appropriate update, one that pays homage to the original while modernizing it for today’s audience, and a logical progression of the story. Oh was I right about that!
So instead of a board game, now we’ve got an Atari-looking video game. Four kids (who are absolutely not friends) find the game while stuck in detention (do all kid adventures start in detention?) and when attempting to play they get sucked into the world of Jumanji. Their mission is to beat the game and escape before the game beats them and they can’t escape. In other words, in the jungle they must wait until the dice reads, oh no dice. Until we get the end credits screen on the game?
There was so much to love about this. There were some nice nods to the original (including a fond mention of Williams’ character), but it was mostly it’s own thing. And much of it was aimed at gamers. I’m a casual gamer, but enough so that I could recognize and appreciate the way stuff worked: the NPC’s, the cinematic, the map functionality. I loved it, particularly the way the NPC’s interacted with our leads.
Oh and I totally forgot one of the best parts (although if you’ve seen the trailer, you know this). The kids aren’t themselves in the game. Their avatars are played by Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan. In other words, we’ve got a semi-freaky Friday situation where these actors are actually playing teenagers. When this trick is done right, I’m a total sucker for it, and here it was done right. The Rock was basically playing to and against type simultaneously, which he pulled off and it was hilarious. Karen Gillan nailed the expressions that constantly reminded you that she wasn’t who she looked like. But the real winner of the game was Jack Black, whose corresponding teen was actually your bratty prom queen type girl. He had the voice, and the mannerisms, and really sold it that he was a 15 year old girl, obsessed with her phone and herself. Hart was the only one I had trouble buying, but it still worked.
Anyways, really fun, really funny, and an all around good time at the movies. All you could ask for right? Oh one more thing I could ask for, that has nothing to do with the movie itself. I saw Seth McFarlane in the concession line at the theater. Might have had a bit of an internal freakout as I stood 2 feet away from him. God, I love LA
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/