Back in 1995, Robin Williams starred in a film that had an original story, was reasonably good, included a lot of CGI’d excitement, and was well-received by audiences in general. However, that film aged pretty quickly, with the special effects looking dated within that decade, yet still held a special place in most people’s hearts especially after the loss of Robin Williams in 2014.
When it was announced that there was going to be another movie—although it wasn’t said whether it’d be a sequel or a reboot—I thought it was unneeded and didn’t think it would stand a chance with today’s audiences. Sure, special effects have advanced in the intervening years since the 1995 original, but the board game aspect of the story and wild animals running rampant angle wouldn’t cut it.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was released last December (2017) and although it received some very favorable reviews, I had no desire to go out to the local theater to see it (choosing instead to see The Last Jedi or whatever else was playing back then). But time passed, the movies I’d been seeing lately on Netflix weren’t really doing it for me, so I decided to see this one purely for shits-and-giggles.
So what did I think of it? First…let me give you the breakdown of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle…
Once the teens get immersed into the game and the avatars are revealed, that’s when the fun begins. Seeing the main character of Spencer finding himself to be Smolder Bravestone was amusing, especially when the real Spencer’s traits show through. Watching and hearing The Rock repeat “don’t cry” to himself over and over when he first finds himself to be in this new jungle world was pretty funny. Even more comical was to see the character of Fridge—a huge high school football player—end up as the diminutive avatar of “Mouse” Finbar. The laughs really start to come when you see Jack Black embody the character of Bethany within the avatar of Professor Shelly Oberon. Finally, the introverted teen Martha turns into the kick-ass Ruby Roundhouse.
If you look back on the last few lines of the synopsis, it really doesn’t ring true when watching the movie unfold. The only thing Alan Parrish (Robin Williams’s character in the 1995 film) left behind was a jungle shack that he’d built with his name carved in a piece of wood. The shelter is of little importance in the movie and is glossed over fairly quickly. Sure, they discovered it…in a way…but it has no bearing on the story. The last line on the summary…? I won’t give away the characters’ dilemma, but it sure isn’t what’s said there.
If there was anything I didn’t like was the choice for the villain of the game—Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale). Though I don’t mind him in most parts he plays (he’s actually really good in Ant-Man), I didn’t think he had what it takes to be the dark and over-the-top villain he sets out to be in this film. Also, another aspect the filmmakers had gotten right tended to bite them in the butt at times. The featured rule of having side characters within the game have limited conversations with the protagonists were sometimes broken—sometimes not engaging with the characters freely, but sometimes they did.
But these are just nitpicked observations and really don’t take away from the fun you’ll have while watching this.
Directed by Jake Kasdan (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Bad Teacher, Sex Tape), he really turns the adventurous story into a fun popcorn flick. Though I’m sure Kevin Hart and Jack Black were probably hard to rein in, Kasdan takes this ensemble cast and makes them work together cohesively. He takes advantage of the chemistry worked within this group, both in the teens and the game avatars, and brings the story together very well, never letting the action let up for too long and nary a lull is felt.
What makes the film even more entertaining is the music by Henry Jackman, who has scored the films of Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, Captain America: Civil War. The music in Civil War was especially memorable and really brought that movie’s feelings up front as the battles between friends raged on. With those other music compositions in mind, it’s very obvious this man knows how to put feeling into a movie.
Let’s get right to it and let me give you my final “bit” on Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle…
Thanks for reading!