Sunday, December 24, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

We were at the theater bright and early this Christmas Eve for an 8:00 a.m. showing of the comedic adventure JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE (2017).

The early-early show not only let us see the film and then move on with our busy day but also ensured we could see it using our MoviePass cards, which can only be used at the box office. (Many shows later in the day were already close to sold out due to advance reserved seating.) For those who aren't yet familiar with MoviePass, it allows cardholders to see one 2D film per day for $9.95 per month. This is my second month as a subscriber.

I've seen more "new" movies than usual this year, and the entertaining JUMANJI trailer has stood out amidst a sea of bad ones I've had to sit through. The presence of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, a genuine Movie Star who melds charisma with impeccable comic timing, was the main pull for me; I've previously enjoyed him in several films including SAN ANDREAS (2015), in animated form in MOANA (2016), and in several films in the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise; FAST AND FURIOUS FANS anxiously await the promised 2019 spinoff teaming Johnson's federal agent with arch villain turned antihero Jason Statham.

JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE is itself a sort of spinoff of the 1995 Robin Williams film JUMANJI; I haven't seen it but have read that the premise is the characters are trapped in a board game.

In this new film, four high school students are "sentenced" to detention cleaning out a storage room, where they find an ancient video game and plug it in to an equally old TV set. They each choose a character and begin to play, at which point they are sucked into the game. Nerdy Spencer (Alex Wolff) emerges as the imposing Johnson; football player Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain) appears in the more diminutive form of Kevin Hart; studious Martha (Morgan Turner) turns into looker Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan); and self-involved beauty Bethany (Madison Iseman) is shocked to turn into a somewhat portly male professor (Jack Black).

The quartet eventually deduce that they must "win the game" in order to return to reality, and along the way they find another young man (Nick Jonas) who's been trapped in the game for 20 years.

The film has engaging performances, particularly by Johnson and Gillan, and some genuinely funny moments; the previously shy Martha learning to toss her hair and distract some guards was quite amusing.

The movie has some creative ideas -- I especially liked the concept that certain "characters" the group meets are only able to repeat their "lines" from the game -- and all in all it's a solidly fun 119 minutes, if ever so slightly too long.

The movie was directed by Jake Kasdan, son of Lawrence Kasdan, who cowrote RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. It was filmed by Gyula Pados.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated PG-13. There is some "body change" humor in a couple of scenes which I personally found inappropriate or distasteful, especially as it went on for quite a while; it would be a more family friendly film without those moments. (Curiously, this is the second "gender swap" film I've seen this year, following the Japanese anime film YOUR NAME.) Characters appear to die but there's no blood, and...well, the dying stuff is complicated. The villain (Bobby Canavale) who shares his body with animals is definitely creepy.

On a positive note, there are uplifiting themes about teamwork, maturing, and thinking of the needs of others while also being true to yourself; those concepts come together very nicely at the conclusion.

Coming soon: A review of STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (2017). I also hope to see DARKEST HOUR (2017) in the next few days. 

Update: Here's a review of the sequel, JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL (2019).


Blogger DKoren said...

I want to see this one. You're right, among all the dire trailers, this one stood out. I saw Darkest Hour on Saturday and really liked it. Hope you can see it soon!

8:01 AM  
Blogger Maricatrin said...

Don't plan on seeing this myself, but your remark about the gender swapping reminded me of a very funny Gilligan's Island episode where a mad scientist (played by Vito Scotti) switches the castaways identities with each other. Nothing crass or vulgar about the humor in that episode, just hilarity! Seeing as they are an uneven number, the last switch is with his own assistant (played by Mike Mazurki) and Ginger. You haven't lived till you see Mike Mazurki pretending to be Tina Louise.

10:30 AM  

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