|Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle||$962,077,546||2017|
Everyone loves a sequel, especially when that sequel comes out twenty-three years after the original. If you haven’t seen the original film, it is about a magic board game that turns the lives of a few kids upside-down by turning their house into a jungle. It’s basically Home Alone with animals, as couches are shredded by lions and cars are stomped by elephants all-the-while Robin Williams plays a character who was trapped in the game decades prior and is now loose in the house and possibly rubbing his hairy person all over a shelf of Disney-themed knick-knacks.
Fast-forward twenty-years and Robin Williams is dead, and so is the creative department in every major studio. So why not breathe life into this franchise once more and have it compete with Star Wars over member berries? But wait, what kid on the planet would be even remotely interested in a board game in 2017? Don’t worry, in the first two minutes the magical boardgame is discovered on a beach and brought home by a parent who obviously loves bringing their kids trash they find. The kid blows it off and chucks it in a corner, exactly what you should do with a copy of this movie if you find it. The game TRANSFORMS into a sleek 1985 video cartridge, which the kid too busy playing his 1996 SONY PLAYSTATION is attracted to after more MAGIC.
Somehow has an aging console he can play it on. Of course the predictable happens and he is SUCKEDINTOTHEGAME, that has inexplicably good graphics for such an obviously dated magic-game-system.
Now let’s fast-forward ANOTHER twenty-years, where we meet our young protagonists. There is the big jock, the nerdy jew, the shy girl and the popular girl who LOVES her Sony smartphone (just like the other kids have). This is a group of people I have NEVER seen in a movie before, so I am super excited to see if they will learn from each other and from themselves about becoming a responsible young-adult by the end of the film. The kids have all landed detention and they are locked in a boiler-room and left to peel-potatoes but since you can’t have a knife in a school they end up pulling staples from old magazines. Since this is SUPER BORING they start digging through the trash and find… you guessed it, the video game. And not only a game, but the console and four working controllers.
I don’t know how familiar you are with old games or consoles, but it is super-common to find that they are packed together with everything they need to run. And how about that 4-player system? Pretty cool for a video-game competing with the advance of the two-player Playstation it encountered before transforming itself. Easily, we now know the Nintendo 64 was built using dark-magic. But wait, earlier the kid only found a cartridge…
So where did this come from?
Forget it. The kids are sucked into the game!
So now that we’ve been introduced to the old board game, some kid, the game then as a video-game and console, then a group of kids… we now get to be introduced to another group of characters. At this point we are literally 30 minutes into the film, and the only thing that has happened is everyone getting absorbed into videoland. The kids have been transformed themselves into archetypes of heroes that totally don’t match their real-life personas at all. The nerd is now played by the Vin Diesel as The Rock, and is super-buff and has the power to stare at things. The jock is turned into a diminutive sidekick but don’t worry he’s still black and played by Kevin Hart. The shy girl turns into the movies obligatory “smoking-hot redhead” and the pretty girl turns into Jack Black. This takes about another 8 minutes to explain, despite dramatic irony totally filling us in just in case we missed any of the movie posters.
The plot is finally laid out, the group must return a magic jewel to a statue they can’t find without a magical map all while being chased by people on motorcycles. Interestingly, for a movie called “Welcome to the Jungle” the group primarily fights humans with vehicles and guns who are working for the bad guy who wants the jewel so he can rule videoland.
After a short series of accidents, we find that each character has three lives, so we get to watch them each bite the dust more than once. One dies by explosion after eating a cake. Eventually they run into the kid who was transported to the game back in ’96, but unlike the first movie where the kid grew-up in the game and emerged as an adult this guy hasn’t aged a day. After he says some totally whack 90’s catchphrases, the group confronts him about how long he thinks he’s been in the game and discover they too could be trapped until a time when the word “fleek” seems stupid.
But wait, the console only had 4 controllers, but it’s a five-player game? Was this kid’s life rigged from the moment he hit “start”?
The group has some infighting, and Jack Black (playing a 17 year old girl) invites the others to come look at her penis (which they decline) after he/she having to be tutored on how to pee like a man. There’s also heavy drinking of margaritas, which gets Kevin Hart’s character drunk enough to fuck up the mission. Despite the others seemingly upset about this, at no point is there any discouragement for kids not to chug liquor or sexually harass each other.
Finally the group reaches the statue, there is a really weak battle with the villain (who’s super-power of being a jungle god is holding a gun to someone’s head). Never mind that it has been mentioned through the film that he has “control of the jungle” and will “make it come alive” to capture the team. It seems the only control of the jungle he has is to send out a condor like a messenger-pigeon and to scare a few CGI snakes. That must be why he has a motorcycle army.
The jewel is returned via deus-ex-elephanta, everyone screams “Jumanji” and they are returned home. Now the jock will do his own homework, the pretty girl will stop being so self-centered and the nerds can make out. The other kid is sent back home to 1996, where the kids go to meet him and see him at the not-so-well-aged dad-version of him.
So that’s it. The only thing that ties this anywhere near being a Jumanji movie is the fact that the kids are playing a Jumanji game. There’s no crazy monkeys, but there is a poorly-rendered rhino stampede. And there’s only ONE elephant in the whole movie. The kids are literally fighting motorcycle gangs in a Florida wetland while some evil guy sits in a camp telling people to stop fucking up. Jack Black as a teenage girl is slightly amusing, but by the time the piss-class scene is over, it’s old hat for the rest of the film. The Rock blasts the People’s Eyebrow a few times, Kevin Hart screams and the hot chick does a sexy dance (but badly since she is really a nerd). Laughs are sprinkled about, but the plot sucks. Maybe if the high-school they were in ended up getting terrorized by a troop of baboons or the principal’s toupee was stolen by an ocelot maybe JUST MAYBE this would be a funnier movie. But placing all the characters in a safe-zone with multiple chances to kill each other or themselves makes it an incredibly predictable movie despite being completely different than the last one.
The real bummer here is again Hollywood’s boner for origin-stories. We don’t care what the kids are like in real life, because it should be apparent when they are in the game that they still have these mannerisms. And even after that we have to watch the group of idiots figure out that they are in different bodies for another introduction segment that could’ve been shortened down to “oh my god, we’re the game characters” instead of each one having to say “what happened to my voice” or “i think i need to open an IRA for my retirement”.
The introduction of NPCs (non-player characters) means that someone random can show up and give the exposition, and then never be heard from again. When the first NPC, a British safari-guide named Nigel, arrives he lays out the plot for the movie in a “cut-scene” all the characters somehow view through their third-eyes. I was guessing for a while that this would end up being the kid trapped in the game, or maybe someone working for the villain. But no, he shows up, tells a story and then leaves. He isn’t seen until the end of the movie when everyone gives him a teary-eyed goodbye, why it was so dramatic I’ll never know because they only spent five minutes with the guy earlier before he kicked them out of his bitchin’ jeep. Other NPCs show up, including Bill the Killer from Too Many Cooks and they do absolutely nothing except give the team someone else to talk to for about 20 seconds.
While there a few jokes here and there, this an action-comedy movie that relies heavily on CGI animals and foot chases. Even when they are in an underground tunnel at one point, the traps are all computer-generated. When the first film came out, the technical aspect of creating realistic animals to destroy a suburban neighborhood was heavily advertised. But this movie looks like someone downloaded a bunch of models from Thingiverse and made a movie with them. The action scenes in the end-game battle is at night, and in the darkest part of it. So even the animals crappy CG is hidden with bad lighting.
I’m not a huge fan of guns in movies for kids, especially when they don’t use realistic violence. However, one lead is shot and is bleeding heavily and they do die but it’s a quick blip and they’re back and totally fine. I never enjoy scenes where someone ends up surviving a mortal wound, and it scares me to think of little kids finding guns and playing out scenes from movies. But that’s just me.
This is a SONY film, and holy shit do they flaunt it.
The kid has two posters of the same game in his room.
DOKTOR FAUX’s SCORE (Scale of 1-5)
Story/Plot: It’s boring and nothing happens for the first 30 minutes and the rest has no payoff. It’s Breakfast Club meets Jungle Book brought to you buy some Japanese electronics company
Script: There are jokes, but they use characters dying as punchlines throughout the movie
Actors/Casting: It’s those guys who do action movies and can raise their eyebrows. The kids aren’t in the “game” part of the movie, but when they are onscreen they are bland losers. Jack Black was mildly amusing 2 or 3 times.
Soundtrack: I was expecting some chiptune-dubstep drum-and-bass but instead it’s all chase music, except for the obligatory Guns n Roses song over the credits
Composition: Everything seems to be in-frame, but there’s a lot of lead room in the shots so they could crop in and add digital animals. The best shots were of anything with a SONY logo on it. The final battle at the end is shot entirely in low-light.
Effects: Everything was CGI, even the squirrels.
Directing: Jake Kasdan seems to enjoy making movies about jerks (Dewey Cox, Bad Teacher, Sex Tape) which is probably why his break-in to franchise world is FILLED WITH THEM.
AVERAGE SCORE: 1.2
If you see this film in a bargain-bin, just burn the store down.
See you next week with Fate of the Furious
Jumanji Fan Wikia, USA Today, EW.com, Jumani: Welcome to the Jungle, Fine Art America