We really enjoyed Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle! Here are the main reasons why. Warning: Spoilers ahead!
When I saw the first two minutes of the trailer for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, I thought “Oh no! They’re remaking The Breakfast Club?!” but thankfully that thought was squashed when “smouldering” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson appeared.
You can read a full review of Jumanji here. But I – as well as other Digital Fox writers – were really pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable the film is.
So with that in mind, here are five reasons why Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is so great.
(Bear in mind, this is not a comparison to the original Robin Williams Jumanji).
1. The plot isn’t complicated.
It’s a simple plot: A video game console that sucks the person playing it into the video game world as one of the Avatars of the game.
In order to get out of the game, they have to complete “stages”. The final stage involves placing a green gem on a giant Jaguar.
Hot on their heels is the chief Antagonist, John Hardin Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale), who seeks to hold on to the gem and the powers it gives him.
A simple, easy to follow plot leads to the following hilarious and entertaining sub plots:
- The nerdy Spencer Gilpin (Alex Wolff) is stuck in Dr. Smolder Bravestone’s (Dwayne Johnson) powerfully built body, longing for rebellious Martha (Morgan Turner) who changes into dance fighter extraordinaire Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan).
- The various characters’ key strengths and weaknesses are showcased as plot devices to keep the story moving.
- Social Media obsessed Bethany Walker (Madison Iseman) becomes a “fat, middle aged man” – Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon (Jack Black) and her ongoing adjustment to the change is a long running gag. Watch for all three guys peeing in the jungle and Bethany asking for tips.
- Spencer’s realisation that with his attributes (and surprising lack of weaknesses), he is looked upon by others as the leader.
- Alex Vreeke (Nick Jonas) being stuck in the game since he discovered it as a boardgame 20 years ago. Conveniently the boardgame changes into a video game cartridge and sucks in Alex as Jefferson “Seaplane” McDonough. His realisation of the time that has passed and the wrestling of his inner demons in order to help him and others to get to the next stage.
- Probably a subplot that wasn’t really needed but Bethany (as Oberon) teaching Martha (as Ruby Roundhouse) how to flirt drew quite a bit of laughter with the audience I was with.
2. Great ensemble cast/chemistry.
Let’s be honest, the casting of both “young” and “old” characters is what made this movie far more entertaining than it should have been.
I admit, I wanted to fast forward through the introductions of Spencer, Bethany, Martha and Anthony “Fridge” Johnson (Ser’Darius Blain) to get to the jungles of Jumanji.
But cultivating their characters was an important part of the story because their mannerisms, personalities and reactions are imprinted on to their chosen Avatars.
There’s great acting all around with Jack Black’s subtle but hilarious performance as Bethany trapped in a man’s body.
Kevin Hart plays up the angry little man angle as he comes to grips with the shortness of his Avatar (Franklin “Moose” Finbar) and that he is nothing more than a bagman and zoologist.
Perhaps the best performance is from Dwayne Johnson with a mixture of action and comedic timing which sets the fun tone of the film.
With Spencer choosing him as his Avatar, Johnson successfuly portrays to the audience the person in control is one scared kid who has the mantle of leadership thrust upon him and fears letting the others down.
3. Great themes.
There are some great themes in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
One of these is the theme of having only one life and how that life is lived. In this instance, the context of a video game, the four Avatars have three ‘lives’ each. They all start getting nervous when they are left with one life only.
For Alex, this leads to his strategy of laying low and avoiding the risk of losing his final life, which halts his progress of getting out of the game.
The four work together, making use of their Avatars’ strengths and complete the stages – including a spectacular, CGI filled final stage.
Then, there’s sacrifice. Whether it’s Bethany giving one of her lives to Alex, or Spencer using “Fridge” to feed the rhino herd, or Martha losing one of her lives in order to be in a position to give the gem to Spencer and complete the final stage.
Perhaps the theme of love can happen no matter the situation. It didn’t really need to be used, but it felt like a natural progression between Spencer and Martha. With their awkward first kiss, the pay off for the filmmakers was huge, judging by audience reactions.
4. Laugh out loud moments
From when the gang meet up in the jungles of Jumanji, the laughs kept rolling in. The initial reactions to what’s actually going on and the Avatars they have become is hilarious.
Jack Black’s reaction as Bethany is priceless, and for the duration, he doesn’t over-play it to the detriment of the character once.
The process of understanding their strengths and weaknesses also drew a lot of laughs, including Dr. Bravestone’s “Smouldering Intensity”.
These attributes also become important plot devices in key moments in the film, sometimes resulting in gales of laughter.
As stated before, Bethany trying to understand the male anatomy and Martha being taught how to flirt triggered huge laughs from the audience.
But then the real fun begins when she starts dance fighting.
5. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The film’s aim is to entertain and make you laugh. This leads us to the “Don’t ask too many questions” attitude.
The antagonist and his back story is paper thin and serves only as the big stick that’s making the characters complete the stages quickly.
There’s also very little information about the “world” of Jumanji, but we as the audience don’t really care about that. We want to know how Spencer is going to get up the courage to tell Martha he likes her or when Ruby Roundhouse is going to showcase her dance fighting skills.
In reality, the way the film ended and some shaky time travel explanations could easily fall apart if questioned at length. But it just doesn’t seem important.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle doesn’t pretend to be anything more than an action/adventure comedy with a dash of sentimentality and a tribute to the late, great Robin Williams.
It’s worth watching just for the character interactions and chemistry.