Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle


I went in dubious, and came out liking it. I had gotten the impression that it was a remake of the 1995 film, but it is actually a sequel. I hadn’t realized this was a franchise, made from a book, and including the film Zathura and a TV series to boot. In the first one children discover a board game that has the power to bring the creatures of the game into the real world. Thus we got some state-of-the-art (for the time) SFX like a herd of rhinos stampeding down a street, crushing cars. I recall being impressed.

I suppose kids still play board games now and then, but they’re much more likely to play on a computer, so that has been shifted. And they end up in the role-playing Jumanji game. Now, this is far from an original concept—the latest iteration is Spielberg’s Ready Player One, debuting two months ago as I write this; I haven’t seen it—but it still has possibilities. And there are some ingenious touches. Each of the four players arrives in the jungle as an avatar, but not what they might have hoped.

Timid Alex turns into musclebound Dwayne Johnson. It’s fun to see The Rock play frightened and querulous. The dude has shown a real capacity for comedy, and isn’t afraid to make fun of himself.

Big, black quarterback Anthony arrives as nerdy black “Mouse” Finbar, played by little Kevin Hart.

Awkward Martha morphs into Ruby, a deadly kung fooer, played by Karen Gillan.

But weirdest of all is uber-bitch Madison, who becomes … Jack Black. He/she has the most difficult time adjusting, as you might imagine.

There are ample opportunities for comedy here, and mostly they are not squandered. It kept me going, and, of course, the SFX this time around dwarf the stuff on display in the original.