That darn Jumanji game resurfaces in 1996 and changes itself to a video game. After sucking in a student, it lies dormant for 20 years until it sucks in another 4 students who find themselves characters in the videogame. Their mission – save Jumanji!
The original Jumanji movie had a great premise and was very entertaining. This new film revisits the original idea – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – and updates it into the videogame era.
The cleverest part of the update is that each of the kids sucked into the game end up with a game avatar at odds with their personality. So nerd Spencer is alpha male Dr Smolder Bravestone (Dawyne Johnson), hunky football jock Fridge is diminutive zoologist Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart), mousy Martha is sexy Lara Croft-y combatant Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) and, best of all, superficial selfie queen Bethany is fat, middle-aged Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black).
The four main performers do a great job of convincing us that their teenage selves are inside their videogame bodies. This is particularly effective in a sequence where Jack Black is teaching Karen Gillan how to be seductive and flirty. Miss Gillan joins a select group of women who can do very sexy and very funny at the same time (see also Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies).
The story follows typical cartridge game clues, obstacles and solutions. It adds a sense of genuine jeopardy by giving each player 3 lives to lose: what will happen if someone loses their third life in the game? This is also used as a plot point, and very unexpectedly so at one point. The action and plot are good at reproducing that videogame feel.
The original film’s visuals managed to create a look which was photorealistic but slightly off. The realism element is higher this time as regards animals, at least. But the action is clearly videogame action. We expect The Rock to kick ass, but so does Karen Gillan.
The film is amusing throughout and sometimes very funny. It’s fair to say that a large proportion of the best stuff is shown in the trailer, but by no means all. If I have one reservation about this film, it is Kevin James. His shouty motormouth humour works quite well, but sometimes comes close to overpowering the film.
This film showcases the high-powered foursome who play the game avatars, of course. The are the stars who put bums on seats in the cinemas. But the unknowns who play the teens get a decent opportunity to establish their characters. They also get pleasing epilogues where we get to see the character development they have been through.
They finish the film with smiles on their faces, and so do we.