Fans of the all-time classic adventure movie Jumanji were left shook when it was confirmed that 22 years later, the film would get a sequel.
Luckily, there wasn’t too much to worry about as Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is a fun action comedy movie, that works as a standalone movie – and certainly isn’t going to ruin any childhoods.
The new Jumanji sees four students sucked into the game after discovering a dusty old game console in their school’s basement during detention – oh, yeah, Jumanji is no longer a board game, it’s a video game – although how it became a game cartridge is explained in a scene which seems like a hastily thrown together afterthought, even though it comes in the first two minutes of the movie.
However, Jumanji needed to be a video game to actually make the sequel current – and it’s the video game aspects of Welcome To The Jungle that actually make it funny.
The students choose avatars before they get sucked into the telly, and are transformed into the characters they chose. Thus, the nerdy boy becomes Dr Smolder Bravestone (played by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson), the jock becomes diminutive zoologist Franklin ‘Mouse’ Finbar (Kevin Hart), the quiet girl is transformed into kickass femme fatale Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and the Instagram-obsessed popular girl is transformed into a ‘curvy’ cartographer called Professor Shelly Oberon, played by Jack Black.
The tropes of gaming are lovingly lampooned throughout the movie. Karen Gillan’s Ruby Roundhouse is wearing tiny short shorts and a leather halter top in the jungle – the ridiculous costume is mocked straight away – and flies through the air to perform karate.
The background characters keep repeating themselves as they only have pre-programmed stock phrases in their vocabulary, and The Rock gets super intense and sexy everytime he says something dramatic.
This trope mockery leads to the best laughs in the film, and feel fresh and clever – unlike Jack Black’s portrayal of a teenage girl, where the jokes on selfie culture and millenial slang seem rather tired.
The cast – who genuinely seem to be having a blast – do the best with the body-swap material they’re given, though, with Johnson in particular drawing smiles in every scene (no surprises there).
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I do wonder who this film is for, though. Body swaps and adventures are definitely in the kids market, but the graphic nature in which the avatars can lose their lives – exploding, being eaten by hippos – are a bit too violent for young cinemagoers.
Any 90s babies, though, will feel all warm and fuzzy when they see the understated tribute to Robin Williams’ character Alan Parrish.
All in all, Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle won’t achieve classic status like the original – but it’s far from a franchise-ruiner, and in this day and age of dodgy remakes, that’s all we can really hope for.
Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is out 20 December.
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‘Antebellum’ has a ‘Get Out’ vibe, but doesn’t live up to its twist
“Antebellum” is built around a provocative twist, and it’s a good one — as well as one that definite..
“Antebellum” is built around a provocative twist, and it’s a good one — as well as one that definitely shouldn’t be spoiled even a little. Once that revelation is absorbed, however, the movie becomes less distinctive and inspired, reflecting an attempt to tap into the zeitgeist that made “Get Out” a breakthrough, without the same ability to pay off the premise.
Originally destined for a theatrical run, the movie hits digital platforms trumpeting a “Get Out” pedigree in its marketing campaign, since there’s an overlap among the producing teams.
More directly, the film marks the directing debut of Gerard Bush + Christopher Renz, who have championed social-justice issues through their advertising work. The opening script features a quote from author William Faulkner, whose intent will eventually become clearer: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
If that sounds like a timely means of drawing a line from the horrors of slavery to the racism of today, you’ve come to the right place.
The story begins on a plantation, where the brutal overseers carry out grisly punishments against those tilling the fields. A few have just tried to escape, led by Veronica (Janelle Monae), and they pay a heavy price for their resistance, which does nothing to curb her defiance.
Also written by Bush + Renz, the script take too long before revealing what makes “Antebellum” different, but the middle portion — a “The Twilight Zone”-like phase when it’s hard to be sure exactly what’s going on — is actually the film’s strongest. (Even the trailer arguably gives away too much, so the less one knows, the better.)
The final stretch, by contrast, veers into more familiar thriller territory, and feels especially rushed toward the end, leaving behind a host of nagging, unanswered questions. That provides food for thought, but it’s also what separates the movie from something like “Get Out,” which deftly fleshed out its horror underpinnings.
Although the filmmakers (in a taped message) expressed disappointment that the movie wasn’t making its debut in theaters, in a strange way, the on-demand format somewhat works in its favor. In the press notes, Bush says the goal was “to force the audience to look at the real-life horror of racism through the lens of film horror. We’re landing in the middle of the very conversations that we hoped ‘Antebellum’ would spur.”
“Antebellum” should add to that discussion, so mission accomplished on that level. Monae is also quite good in her first leading film role (she did previously star in the series “Homecoming’s” second season), but otherwise, most of the characters remain underdeveloped.