By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Three Beers) –
In 1996 young Alex Vreeke is given a game by his father, he shoves it aside, not interested in board games. The game “Jumanji” is apparently a sentient entity, because that night it turns into a video game. When Alex finds it has changed, curiosity gets the best of him and he immediately plugs it into his TV… and is never seen again. 20 years later, 4 teens serving time in detention for various offenses come across the Jumanji game in the donation basket of their school, and find themselves sucked into the game, each taking on avatars of stereotypical game characters. The nerd kid of the group becomes the big and tough hero, the jock kid becomes the small and weak one, the nerdy girl becomes a tough ass kicker, and the hot girl becomes Jack Black…
Yep, that fits
As you might be able to tell from the description, this film’s humor is all about contrasting personas. Each of the four principal characters play stereotypes as teens, and are placed into the opposite role as avatars. The film’s highlights are pulled from this fertile stream. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is particularly good at milking this sort of comedy, as he’s got a long career of playing tough guys who have a soft underbelly. The way he portrays a tough guy with a nerdy teen’s brain is definitely funny. Jack Black is equally excellent, tapping into a feminine side that is very enjoyable to watch.
Director Jake Kasdan pays tribute to the 90s original film while re-writing the Jumanji mythos in this soft reboot. By taking a completely different approach to the Jumanji concept, he has lots of room for invention, and he draws inspiration from the video game world quite admirably. One of the film’s most entertaining elements is that each character has three “lives” to use, which allows for the film to have some fun giving characters comical deaths while maintaining the PG-13 audience, particularly one grisly scene involving a Hippo.
Just want to make friend…
The same conceit that makes for the comedy in the film ironically also is its downfall, as it relies heavily on stock stereotype characters, who you really don’t have any reason to care about. The book-end scenes with the teenage actors feel particularly weak, since the Jocks vs Geeks thing has been played out so much. The “hot girl” character is even worse though, completely one-dimensional and unlikable in any way. Fortunately, once the seasoned cast arrives inside the video game, they make the most of these stock personas.
The unfortunate thing about the film’s actual plot is there really isn’t one. It is just your basic “avoid the supervillain and get the McGuffin to the other McGuffin”. Video game storytelling can be deeper than this, and has been many times. Absent any real stakes, the film’s effectiveness rests solely on the jokes. This isn’t a deal breaker for the movie, but it doesn’t raise it above base-level entertainment. Also, we don’t get to see Robin Williams in crazy-beard mode…
This makes me a sad panda…
Incredibly predictable, but with fun performances and fish out of water charm, Jumanji is the perfect popcorn movie to end 2017.
Jumanji (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for video game tropes
Take a Drink: for character deaths/reincarnations
Take a Drink: every time the film’s title is spoken
Do a Shot: when The Rock strikes a pose