Review for Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle
“It’s a stampede!”
That’s the only thing that I can recall from the original Jumanji movie from the nineties, the one that starred Robin Williams. Oh, and it had something to do with a board game. I did watch it at the time, but it was obviously ephemeral enough for it to completely slip my mind over the years. I didn’t give it much consideration when an attempt to revivify the franchise was announced, other than to note that Amy from Doctor Who had been cast. Her and The Rock, former wrestler turned actor Dwayne Johnson, whose movies I have meticulously avoided since I was knocked out by the one two punch of the Voyager episode Tsunkatse, and the first Mummy sequel. Still 20 years ought to be enough time to develop an ability to act. Let’s see how the first Jumanji sequel fares (there is another...)
In 1996, when the Jumanji board game washed up on a beach, a father found it and gave it to his teenage son. That boy was too into videogames to pay any interest, but after an ominous night, he found a game cartridge in the box. That boy vanished without a trace. 20 years later, the Vreeke house is the run-down wreck which everyone avoids, the old man living there the town crazy.
None of this is of interest to Spencer, Fridge, Bethany or Martha, four high school students whose issues are about to get them into more trouble than they could possible imagine. Nerdy Spencer and athlete Fridge used to be friends, but now they’re limited to Spencer writing Fridge’s homework so he doesn’t lose his football scholarship. It was only inevitable they’d get caught. Bethany is such a narcissist that she’s offended by the teacher interrupting her phone call in class, while the antisocial Martha talked back to a teacher once too often. The four are destined for detention, and an assignment to spend their evenings doing something menial while they try and figure out who they are. The room they are set to clean also holds an old videogame console, and it seems like a nice distraction from the tedium. That is until the Jumanji game boots up and sucks them all in. They find themselves in their avatars’ bodies, trapped until they complete the game by breaking a curse.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle gets a 2.39:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on this disc. Audio comes in DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English, Italian, Spanish, DD 5.1 Surround English Audio Descriptive, Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Turkish, with subtitles in these languages plus Arabic, Bulgarian, Croatian, Greek, Hebrew, Icelandic, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian, Slovakian, and Slovene. You’re not going to find issue with such a recent film, nice and clear, with excellent detail, a bright and colourful action adventure. The colour grading is subtle enough to be unnoticeable and the stunts, action and effects are presented seamlessly. It helps that the Jumanji game world is by definition a fantasy realm when the impossible can happen. The audio is similarly high quality, an excellent immersive surround track, which places you in the action. The music drives the story well, and you feel it when those Jumanji drums start beating. The dialogue is clear throughout.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray case, with an o-card slipcover, and there is a UV code within. The disc boots to a static menu following a trailer for the extras on the disc.
On the disc you’ll find the following extras.
Gag Reel (2:25)
Journey Through the Jungle: The Making of Jumanji (14:54)
Meet the Players: A Heroic Cast (7:08)
Surviving the Jungle: Spectacular Stunts (5:47)
Attack of the Rhinos (3:56)
Book to Board Game to Big Screen & Beyond: Celebrating the Legacy of Jumanji (4:44)
Jumanji, Jumanji Music Video (3:35)
Well that was a good idea, they made a Jumanji movie by remaking The Breakfast Club, and it turned out to be pretty good. The original Jumanji, from what I can remember of it was a fun family adventure movie, but by aging up the protagonists to high school, you get a film more suitable for young adults and above, which it takes advantage of with the film’s humour. Four teenagers go on a journey of self discovery through sharing detention. You have the nerd, the jock, the princess, and the head-case, and all that’s missing is the criminal, all of which is just like the John Hughes movie. That they go through their mutual bonding exercise through the medium of a video game that sucks them into another dimension is the only real difference.
The avatars add an extra dimension to the comedy, allowing for a whole lot of against-type character comedy. The jock Fridge winds up in the body of the diminutive Franklin ‘Mouse’ Finbar, and saddled with a whole barrel of character weaknesses. The timid and nerdy Spencer gets the heroic, muscle-bound body of Smolder Bravestone, the mousy introverted Martha takes on the form of butt-kicking, and inappropriately clad (for the jungle) Ruby Roundhouse, while the self-obsessed Bethany changes gender into the plump and beardy Shelly Oberon. So you get a nervous Dwayne Johnson initially demurring to the comparatively pint-sized Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan made up like Lara Croft, but awkward and geeky with it, while Jack Black just nails it, embodying a narcissistic teenage girl.
The wind up working out their issues, and finding out who they are, over the course of the adventure, as they play the game, trying to escape the Jumanji world. It’s structured like a video game, with missions to complete before they face their final challenge, and it turns out that they have a limited number of lives with which to attempt it. The fact that they can die and re-spawn allows for plenty of humour, as well as some interesting strategies that most certainly wouldn’t work in the real world. There’s also a lot of humour in how they discover their characters’ abilities. On a few occasions however, there are a couple of off-colour gags (usually involving Bethany’s obsession with her avatar’s penis), that sort of shifts Jumanji out of the original film’s audience demographic, which is a bit of a shame.
While the character drama and comedy serves as the backbone of the film, it’s more than spiced up with some well choreographed action sequences, and well thought out, adventure game plotting. The effects are excellent, and the stunts are very effective and impressive. It’s an entertaining ride from the beginning to the end. You can forgive the occasional cheesy humour, as it’s all done with great energy, and an excellent chemistry among the cast. I have to say that I appreciated Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle more than the original film, what little I can recall of it.