In the name of total honesty, I did not want to see Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle when it came out. My kids dragged me, and I truly thought it would be another dud. The stuff I’ve braved for them… *shudder* Within a few minutes, the film more than proved me wrong. We guffawed and didn’t catch our breath for almost two hours. It was surprisingly great. If you haven’t seen it, here are five reasons to watch it this weekend.
#1 – Remakes, the right way
I’m all for a remake when it adds something to the original. The problem with this: eight times out of 10, the remake is done as a money grab by a calculating studio rather than as a project that wants to go somewhere new with familiar material. Luckily, this film takes the original theme – a bullied kid who plays a game that gets way out of hand – and expands upon it in a way that’s both fresh and funny. It feels like wine that’s aged well rather than beer that’s not fully fermented.
#2 – JACK BLACK
Jack Black walks off with this whole movie any time that he’s in a scene. Some background: he plays the video game avatar of a vapid teenage girl. Jack Black plays a teenage girl addicted to her phone and social media. And he’s fucking PERFECT in this role. Never in all my years did I think I’d be thanking this man for his body of work, but dammit, after Goosebumps and now this, he’s the guy that both my kids and I get excited to see. I’m grateful to him for that.
#3 – The rest of the cast slips well into character too
The casting department of this film really earned their paychecks on this one. I remember seeing still shots of The Rock and Karen Gillan and thinking that they looked so stereotypical as action heroes. The thing is… they’re total goobers. Johnson plays a dorky kid trapped in a beefcake’s body, and Gillan can lose her accent like there’s no tomorrow (as well as play the awkward rebel exceptionally well). Kevin Hart, whom I normally dislike, is both funny and earnest. Hell, even Nick Jonas is a lot of fun. This is an excellent ensemble, and the folks that put this crew together knew how to play to their strengths.
#4 – Video game spoofs
If you’ve ever lived and died by a video game, you’re in luck. This film will just get you the way that you know every bump, turn and jump of your favorite game. It’s like going home, and it helps you get that much more attached to the action. It manages to poke fun at the loops the games can play, as well as the out-there character tendencies. I won’t spoil them here – they’re that much better when they’re a surprise.
#5 – A good moral
So often, themes of inclusion and not judging a book by its cover get botched – they come off as too movie-of-the-week, with weak characters and too-neat plot conventions. This film packs a lot of heart into its message and looks beyond the tropes. Sure, we get the jock and the nerd and the popular girl, but they’re so much more than that. They’re allowed to grow. It’s this growth that makes all the difference, transforming them from characters on a page to real people. An apt metaphor for a game-based movie.
You can rent Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle on Amazon, but I suggest just buying it.