Movies: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Jack Black
Directed By: Jake Kasdan
Written By: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner (screenplay); Chris McKenna (story); from the picture book by Chris Van Allsburg
Sony, 2017
PG-13; 119 minutes
3.5 stars (out of 5)


I did not read any in-depth reviews before going to this movie; I went because (a) the trailer was cute, and (b) my kids wanted to go. I never saw the 1995 movie either. So I went into this pretty fresh, with only one word in my head: "generic." That was the one criticism I'd seen of this film—that it was "generic," its setting was "generic."

Well, you know, in board games and video games, the settings often are generic. Sure, they give places names, but those places are mapped of very generic elements: here is a desert, here is a bazaar, here is a jungle, etc. So I think those elements in this movie are kind of the point rather than problematic.

The film begins in 1996 when a teen named Alex gets zapped into Jumanji, once a board game but now upgraded to a video cartridge. Fast forward twenty years, and four teens are given detention in the school basement. They unearth this old game, and zap! In they go, their selves now transformed into the game characters they selected from the menu. If they ever want to get out of the game and go home, they must play through to the end of the game. They each have three lives in order to complete the quest.

Things play out (har, see what I did there?) pretty much as expected. The awkward nerd teen gets to be Dwayne Johnson, the big football player becomes Kevin Hart, and the self-absorbed girl morphs into Jack Black. The jokes are not original, but they work well enough. My kids loved it, and I was entertained, so . . . ::shrug::

The movie would have done a bit better if it had upped the villain quotient and made him a bit more sinister and/or given him more of a presence. The stakes here never feel quite high enough. But then again, this is a kids' movie more than anything, so I might be asking for too much.

Also, this is one movie I think would benefit from 3D. Since I usually hate 3D, that's really saying something.

Overall, not a bad movie though not a stellar one. Maybe that's the "generic" the critics are really feeling. It's a mediocre film, but if you ever need a man to play teen girl, Jack Black is the go-to guy. He's got that nailed. And it's fun to see Dwayne Johnson do, well, anything really. 😍

So. Would I recommend it? Maybe, depending on your tastes. I wouldn't warn anyone away from it at any rate. I don't think you absolutely need the big screen for it, though. This one will work just as well at home. Save it for game night?

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