Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (PG)
Rating: 4 / 5
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle could easily be seen as a classic Boys’ Own adventure film, except in keeping with a realistic reflection of 21st society, it’s more of a teens’ own adventure.
The film focuses on four high school students, two boys and two girls, brought together in a detention for various misdemeanours.
Spencer, Bethany, Fridge and Martha discover a video version of the old Jumanji game and morph into characters they choose who are part of the game. Smart but nerdy teen Spencer (Alex Wolff) chooses to become archaeologist Dr Smolder Bravestone (former buff wrestling star ‘The Rock’, aka Dwayne Johnson), while football jock Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) transforms into zoologist and weapons specialist Franklin ‘Moose’ Finbar (Kevin Hart). Shy bookworm Martha (Morgan Turner) becomes commando Ruby Roundhouse, but the most amazing transformation, leading to much of the film’s humour, is beautiful school blonde bombshell Bethany (Madison Iseman) who becomes cartographer Professor Shelly Oberon. Except that Shelly is short for the male name Sheldon, played by Jack Black.
Along the way the quartet of heroes becomes a quintet, with the addition of pilot Seaplane McDonough (Nick Jonas) who has been stuck in the game and joins the four problem-solvers to save the world of Jumanji, restoring a precious jewel to its proper place, and thereby being allowed to return to their normal lives.
The villain who is determined to keep Jumanji in the hands of the bad guys is rival explorer Van Pelt (Bobby Canavale).
This is certainly an action movie, shot mostly in Hawaii, with most effective jungle scenes. Technology is used to its fullest extent, with some very scary scenes involving wild animals and realistic creepy-crawlies and snakes.
While this could have been just a visual spectacular, the script allows for real character development and all the characters undergo a believable emotional journey, learning about their strengths and weaknesses and what is important in life.
Johnson is also one of the executive producers, and he is clear about what he wants the film to achieve, saying, “We wanted to bring that spirit of wonderment, of overcoming fears and discovering who you are—it’s all woven through Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.”
There is a nice balance between the in-your-face action sequences and the relationships between the main protagonists. The film is something of a combination of the Indiana Jones adventure films and The Chronicles of Narnia, with the noble and important aim to save a world.
One of the highlights is Jack Black being very obviously a male physically, but his inner being is a teenage girl. He does a nice line in showing his femininity and charm, and there are some very funny but slightly risqué visual jokes about him being stuck in the opposite gender.
The film focuses on people learning about their inner strengths in times of crisis and it delivers a solid message that people must put aside their individual feelings and work as a team if goals are to be achieved and survival assured.
Highlight: The camaraderie and chemistry between the main stars, and Jack Black’s comedic performance
Red flags: Occasional coarse language, scary scenes and mild sexual allusions