Fourth highest grossing film at the worldwide box office, depending on where you look for your info, is hardly a position to sniff at. A sequel is all but signed off, nay, a franchise is born. With this in mind, it would seem trite to posit the idea that this is a movie struggling to find its audience, a movie that isn’t quite sure what it is or what it wants to be. Jungle-based kids movie for a new generation or nostalgia piece for generation X or Y or whatever nineties kids are called these days?
Upon its announcement, there were cries of “Why? God, Why?!” Then The Rock was added to the project, along with Jack Black, Karen Gillan and Kevin Hart. OK, OK, hmm and hmm you might say, regarding those casting choices. Then came the news of the updating of the game itself, the gender swap for one of the characters and the straight-up body swapping for the rest of the cast. Things were looking glum for this sequel to a genre favourite.
Then it hit screens a mere few weeks preceding last year’s other big hitter The Last Jedi. Somehow it managed to smash all box office expectation, riding the top spot into the New Year. Reviews were favourable, with the general consensus being that it wasn’t as bad as people though it might be. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle found its stride and its audience.
And, yet, it sits in add odd place when viewed in the home. Dwayne Johnson still plays The Rock, Jack Black is still an irritating shit/comedic god (depending on your point of view), Karen Gillan still pouts better than acts, and Kevin Hart essays irritated little fellow in his own inimitable style. That’s not a compliment by the way.
The problem though, is neither the actors, the filming nor the effects. It’s the script. True, there are laugh-out-loud moments, but for parents taking their children to see this; do they really want their son or daughter repeating the line “Come look at my penis!”? A later erection joke is similarly misguided in terms of its child-friendly audience. The flipside of this is that there are no jokes aimed squarely at the grownups, leaving you feeling that Hart’s character could’ve been let off the leash in terms of swears and cusses.
Somehow though, it works. As a piece of pure entertainment, it hits the mark. You just have to forget the original movie ever existed: clumsy nod to Robin Williams’ character aside. You will care about the characters, you will enjoy the ride, but you might just be left wondering whether this was a spec script with Jumanji slapped on it. Jumanji: Welcome to the Cloverfield.
JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: JAKE KASDAN / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: DWAYNE JOHNSON, JACK BLACK, KAREN GILLAN, KEVIN HART, NICK JONAS, BOBBY CANNAVALE / RELEASE DATE: APRIL 30TH