I find it interesting, that the thing that bothers me the most about Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is its score. Jumanji is an adventure film, much like the Indiana Jones franchise. And every red-blooded adventure movie needs a kick-ass score.
A theme to get your blood pumping and heart pounding. One that would make you clench your fist, punch the air and say yeah bitches! There’s no denying that one of the many reasons why franchises like Indiana Jones and Harry Potter are so popular is because of John Williams’ eargasmic music.
Unlike those movies, the score of Jumanji, by Henry Jackman, is completely generic. Is there even a theme music? If there is, I don’t remember it. It feels like Jackman just typed in “exciting music” in the YouTube copyright free audio library and randomly picked one. I know he didn’t, but it sure does feel that way. Perhaps he should have incorporated the awesome theme from the “Jumanji” animated series in this movie.
The rest of the movie, for the most part, is heaps better than the forgettable score. Just like the original movie, the movie opens in the past. It’s 1996. A dad gives his son the Jumanji board game. He responds, “Pfft, who plays board games, anymore?” It’s funny how board games were popular in the 80s, and then people shat on it in the 90s and now it’s cool again. It’s kinda like bell-bottomed jeans. Erm… bell-bottomed jeans are cool, right?
When the boy sleeps at night, we see a flash of green light. The next day, we learn that the board game has transformed into a video game cartridge.
We flash forward to the present. An unlikely bunch of high schoolers end up in detention together. We have:
- The nerd: Spencer
- The jock (nerd’s former best friend): Fridge
- The insecure girl: Martha
- The self-absorbed hot chick: Bethany
At detention, buried underneath dust and junk, they find the Jumanji. They plug into an old TV and get sucked into the game. And so begins our adventure.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is co-written by Chris McKenna, who previously penned Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Lego Batman Movie. And just like in those films, Welcome to the Jungle has a good coming of age element to it.
The nerd, Spencer, gets transformed into the brave, strong and charismatic, THE ROCK. Fridge, who’s muscular, popular and cocky must learn to be a sidekick. He becomes Kevin Hart. Martha, who has zero confidence turns into the sexy Karen Gillan. And the vain Bethany transforms into the middle-aged, overweight, Jack Black.
This provides an interesting dynamic; one that allows our protagonists to learn about each other and grow as characters. Perhaps the most interesting arc is that of Martha. Her avatar, Karen Gilan, dons short shorts and a tight crop top, an outfit that Martha would never be caught wearing in a million years. But the point of the lack of clothing isn’t to sexualise, nor to say, women should dress skimpily, but rather, to learn to be comfortable in your own skin.
Surprisingly, there isn’t a single character who is the butt of all the jokes. The screenwriters could have taken the easy route and just poked fun at Kevin Hart’s height and Jack Black’s fatness throughout the movie. But they don’t. Each and every character learns to laugh at themselves and each and every character have moments to shine.
When they tap their chest, a holographic visual of their strengths and weaknesses pop up. Everyone has strength and weaknesses, except The Rock who only has strengths, teaching us one very important life lesson: Always be yourself… unless you can be The Rock. Then always be The Rock.
In the hands of less talented performers, this could have been a giant cringe-fest. But The Rock, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black are amazing. They have their usual mannerisms, but they do a fine job balancing it with the characters they’re supposed to embody. It’s hilarious to see The Rock be a coward, Karen Gillan insecure and Kevin Hart act tough. But it is Jack Black who really shines, here. Among the main cast members, he probably had the toughest job, as he has to personify a teenage girl.
The problems in this movie lie with the adventure itself. For an adventure story to work, there needs to be a sense of wonder. The story should push the boundaries of your imagination and make you feel like you’re a part of this new world. With every stone turned, you should be wide-eyed. You should be curious and be wanting to explore.
Jumanji did not give me that. The best parts of the movie are when the characters are not adventuring, but rather just standing around and having smaller character moments. The adventure itself is boring.
It doesn’t help that there isn’t a sense of looming danger. Sure, we’re told through expository dialogue that so and so needs to happen or else our heroes are doomed. But not once did the film actually convince me of it. The villain played by Bobby Cannavale is horrible, exhibiting less personality than a crumpled piece of paper. If you think Whiplash from Iron Man 2 is bland, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
The marketing of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle suggests that this a fun, high-octane adventure film. It isn’t that. Or at least, it isn’t a very good one. But it is a fairly enjoyable coming of age comedy.
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Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
This isn't a red-blooded adventure film, not a good one at least. But it is an effective coming of age comedy.