There are some movies that should not be messed with – particularly because they represent a significant part of our childhood. Jumanji is one of such films and any prospect of a remake sends a shiver down the spine. However, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is is surprisingly not as bad you think it would be, in fact its breezy and harmless nature might just win you over.
The update is as expected – the board game aspect is upgraded to a video game, and four teenagers who play the game are sucked right into it, becoming their respective in-game characters stuck in a jungle. This is where some hilarious subversion begins – the jock in the real world becomes the fat and pudgy moron within the game, the stereotypically unattractive girl becomes an astonishing Lara Croft type ‘hot chick’ and so on.
There is a fifth player in the game – an NPC (Non Playable Character) who informs the heroes that there is a mysterious villainous hunter who wants to steal a jewel called the Jaguar’s Eye for some nefarious purposes. It’s up to the heroes to thwart the master plan, exit the game and go back home to reality.
The predictability within the film is offset by the cast – with The Rock, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan coming across as fun, likable people given a hilariously impossible task. The four really stretch the silliness of the premise to all possible levels, Black in particular rendering a laugh a minute performance as a teenage girl stuck in the body of, well, Jack Black.
The undemanding quality of the film almost feels like a guilty pleasure and director Jake Kasdan holds nothing back in delivering ludicrous gags to first scare and amuse, but mostly both at the same time.
The change from the board game to a retro video console surprisingly works, with the most entertaining aspect being the User Interface of the characters’ strengths and weakness every time they put their hands on their chest. Hardcore gamers would be able to spot a few easter eggs related to vintage video games, and the Guns N Roses song that belts at full throttle serves as a nice accompaniment to crafting the adventure at hand.
Predictably the film also offers the standard issue ‘life lessons’ for children but the grandstanding is easy to digest when there’s so much action occurring around the characters.
If there’s one thing sorely missing it’s the soul that was prevalent in the original film by Joe Johnston. The 1995 version had a sense of curiosity and innocent discovery seen through the eyes of children; here the innocence has been replaced by lathering of pre existing pop culture – which works in parts but has little depth.
The lack of Robin Williams is of course the biggest void that no amount of candy floss, slapstick or special effects can fill. Every time the film rendered a moment of tension, I expected a bearded Williams to pop up and ask what year this is. Perhaps he isn’t really gone and has merely found himself in Jumanji where you aren’t always expected to please everyone.