Director: Jake Kasdan
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is the pinnacle of director Jake Kasdan’s career, and although the movie is really quite enjoyable, that’s still an insult, and an indication of just how awful he’s been up to this point. Orange County, Walk Hard, Bad Teacher, Sex Tape; that’s his filmography, as sad as it is to say. Nabbing this project and this cast was a stroke of good fortune, and I’d say it might have changed things around for Jake, but then his next feature is Bad Teacher 2, so never mind. Let’s stay focused on the film at hand though, and I am pleased to report that it isn’t terrible. A step up from Baywatch and a bit less goofy, Jumanji bridges the gap between kid and adult cinema, never taking itself too seriously but never surrendering to the typical and the stupid either. It’s a nice way to spend some screen time, and that simplicity might be one of its greatest attributes.
Four high schoolers, who find themselves sent to detention on the same afternoon, are about to enter a world where the standard rules don’t exactly apply. Spencer is a nerd, Fridge is a football player, Bethany is popular, and Martha is an outsider, but they all will have to work together if they want to survive Jumanji. During detention, they are mysteriously sucked into a video game once they choose their avatars. In Jumanji, they become these avatars: a muscular leader, a small sidekick, a brainy scientist, and an ass-kicking hottie. Together, they must figure out their mission, beat the levels, and defeat the boss, all without losing their allotted three lives. Teamwork makes the dream work, but these kids will have to learn that in a hurry, because in the jungle, death is swift.
For starters, even though is bears the same name, Jumanji has very little to do with our 90s favorite and should probably just be called Welcome to the Jungle. It’s related by reference only, and by the fact that the characters get to see first hand the land in which Alan Parrish lived for so many years. There are some plot holes there, and this time it’s a video game not a board game, so don’t try too hard to connect the dots. Enjoy this movie simply for what it is, and that’s an entertaining 120 minutes that could have been a lot worse. The Rock is a natural, charismatic, film hero, Hart is hilarious when incredulous, Black can do magic with characters that defy his resume, Gillan did a little better after some disastrous performances in GOTG and The Circle, and we get a couple cool cameos: Nick Jonas if you can believe it, Bobby Cannavale as the villain, and Rhys Darby the sensational Kiwi. There’s already another one of these films in the pipeline because this one was such a surprise success, and what’s even more shocking is that it’s kind of deserved. Jumanji isn’t the greatest movie, obviously, but it’s fun and easy and not too dumb; you could do much worse.
My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆