Festivals & Cons
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Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle


Movie Rating:
I never really knew whether Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a sequel or a reboot of the 1995 film starring Robin Williams. It features a reference to that movie that leads me to believe they take place in the same universe, but Jumanji is a video game now that literally sucks its players into the world, as opposed to bringing the jungle to them. Everybody in this movie experiences what Robin Williams’s character had to go through in the original, and they have to find a way to beat the game in order to escape.
In many ways, nostalgia aside, Welcome to the Jungle is a better film than the original Jumanji. I want to avoid comparing them too much, though, because this new version stands very well as its own story. It features a similar concept, but we meet new characters and follow a different and very unique story with them that provides a lot of comedy, and a surprising sense of adventure that makes this an unexpectedly solid film.
The funniest lines and moments in the movie come from the lead actors playing characters they usually wouldn’t play. They’re all stereotypical high schoolers, but they’re trapped in the bodies of the cartoonish avatars they chose. They each have their own unique traits—skills, strengths, and weaknesses that you would find in a video game character—that give the avatars development, but the real character depth comes from their teenage minds.
The Rock plays the avatar of a nerdy, unpopular boy who is afraid of squirrels, while Kevin Hart is the large and stoic football star. Karen Gillan plays the insecure outcast who suddenly inherits crazy martial arts skills when she enters the game, and possibly best of all, Jack Black is a popular and self-obsessed teenage girl, which provides for some of the best moments in the film. All of these actors get the chance to play against type (Kevin Hart still has his Kevin Hart-isms, but I could look past that because he actually was hilarious in the film), and it lends to the unconventional but satisfying sense of humor that the movie has.
I also really admire the way the film plays with video game mechanics in an inventive way. The world of Jumanji is presented as the world of a game, complete with option menus, cutscenes, and NPCs (non-player characters). The characters have lives and can only die a certain number of times before they are gone for good, and while at first there was little urgency because I felt like they could die whenever they wanted, it later lead to more suspenseful action and a good message about making the most of the one life we have.
Jumanji isn’t a film that everybody has to rush out to see, and it’s certainly not the best comedy or the most inventive movie of the year, but it seriously surprised me with its wit and charisma. All the characters have great chemistry and the world they are adventuring in feels like a real, immersive jungle while also feeling like a video game. It’s a good looking movie, too, with pretty seamless CGI and lots of color, but the heart of the story is in what the characters learn by the end and the bond they develop. I found myself enjoying the movie a lot more than I expected to, and I think it’s a fantastic comedy for families to go to and be entertained by over the holidays.
Movie Rating:
— Camden McDonald
Camden McDonald
I enjoy watching, making, and talking about all kinds of films.

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