Jumanji has been upgraded for 2017. The 90’s family adventure was a fantasy romp about young children getting drawn in to a board game which results in rescue of the former player, who is now an adult, Robin Williams. The game sets of a series of adventure by roll of dice. Jumanji in 2017 is a video game which is reminiscent of Indiana Jones and Freaky Friday.
Shown to be a form of 80’s video game, Jumanji is discovered by four teens who start to play the game out of curiosity. In trouble at school for various reasons, these teens, Instagram princess Bethany (Madison Iseman), earnest student Spence (Alex Wolff), alienated indie kid Martha (Morgan Turner) and humongous football star Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) discover the game when cleaning an old store room as a punishment. Sucked in to the jungle game of Jumanji, these teens turn in to adult characters they choose to play. They are spirited in to a vast threatening jungle landscape infested with unforeseen threats. This new Jumanji is a lot of fun because of the unexpectedly clever twist; that upon arriving in the jungle the teens are replaced by their game avatars. Fridge finds that he is now a quiveringly diminutive guy, played by Kevin Hart. Martha finds that she is now a total babe, played by Karen Gillan. Spence finds that he inhabits the body of man-mountain Dwayne Johnson, who rather sweetly impersonates someone who thinks of himself as a seven-stone weakling. But most traumatised is Bethany, a self-proclaimed beauty who finds that Professor Shelly is a man – a portly, cowardly scientist played by Jack Black! This results in some comic scenes in the film. For instance, when Shelly must get used to urinating with a penis and deal with those moments in which one’s penis can give away private emotional turmoil.
The quartet battle huge rhinos, vast hippos, horrible snakes and a sinister baddie to restore a magic jewel to an occult statue-their way to freedom from the world of Jumanji. They must also find that long-lost castaway player from the 90’s, who uses phrases such as “da bomb” and thinks that Cindy Crawford is the epitome of beauty. The game winks at video game conventions as it explains its heroes' strengths and weaknesses, gives them a mission, and reveals that each has three lives to expend before it's Game Over for real.
Structuring its challenges in the level-by-level mode, each stage of their quest seems like it would make for a pretty easy-to-beat video game but the action suffices in big-screen terms.
The film's main appeal is in watching familiar adult actors pretending to be teenagers, grappling with their new selves. Johnson is predictably charming, imagining himself as a kid suddenly blessed not just with a spectacular physique but a superpower defined as "smouldering intensity." Jack Black gets the comic scenes where he mimics the voice and gestures of a mean girl who recoils at being stuck in this ‘unbangable bod’ but is fascinated to have a penis. Gillan and Hart more than hold up their end of things. All four characters/actors get predictable, but legitimate arcs.
The vibe of the new Jumanji is appealing, well-meaning and endearing; a likeable film which borrows liberally from everything and everyone. It took four credited screenwriters to come up with the punch lines that each actor delivers with ease, and yet the story never feels disjointed or overstuffed. Courageous enough not to steer towards crowd pleasing entertainment built to drive adults ponderous, Jumanji sequel is a genuine example of old-fashioned, four-quadrant entertainment. Unlike the first one, this Jumanji is much springier and does have an antagonist, a possessed adventurer (Bobby Cannavale) who’s always got bugs slithering into and out of his various orifices.
The underlying message of the film is that you can’t judge a book by its cover. That you have to work through your differences and become a team. It’s hard to argue with something as well-intentioned as that! The sequel of sorts wins audiences over with its endearing charm and whip-smart approach and shows how imaginative a re-imagining can be.