Tuesday, March 06, 2018

'Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle' Is a Fun Popcorn Movie, but a Bad Sequel

Jumanji was a childhood favorite of mine.  Watched it several times.  I thought it had a very fun premise.  Hence, when it was announced that it was going to have a sequel starring The Rock, and this time around, it would involve a video game cartridge instead of a board game, I got interested.  Then I saw the trailer, and I hated it.   Even so, I still decided to see it (not in theaters though).

Titled Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, it follows four high schoolers coming from different backgrounds (Alex Wolff, Ser'Darius Blain, Morgan Turner, and Madison Iseman) who have to spend detention together (kind of like The Breakfast Club).  They discover an old video game called Jumanji and decide to play it.  However, they are magically sucked into the game itself and have transformed into the adult avatars (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillian, and Jack Black) they have chosen.  In order to get back to the real world, they must use the strengths of their avatars and beat the game, before their lives counters are depleted.
I was surprised that despite of my initial negative feeling for this movie, I still found myself being entertained.  It’s not a terrific film.  But it has ample enjoyable parts.   It definitely has flaws – especially regarding the consistency of its logic (e.g. if the whole thing is working like a video game – NPCs and flashback cut scenes and all that – then why are there scenes focusing on what’s going with the bad guys, which is outside the scope of the main characters’ perspective?).  But as far as being a popcorn flick is concerned, it’s probably nigh-perfect.

The humor works more than it doesn’t, the story is dumb but pleasantly undemanding, and the cast has winning chemistry.  Jack Black, particularly, is fantastic as a narcissistic, shallow teenage girl trapped in a fat, middle-aged male body.  The Rock and Gillian are also pretty good with the comedic subtleties of their characters, but at a notch lower than Black’s level.  But, on the other hand, Kevin Hart is simply being Kevin Hart.
To be honest, I had fun with this movie.  However, I still have some loathing for it.  As what I saw in the trailer, which led me to have a preconceived hate for the movie there and then, the Jumanji game world contains modern stuff like motorcycles and helicopters.  And, for me, the modern technology doesn’t fit the Jumanji mystique.  Welcome to the Jungle made it clear that its Jumanji world is the same as the original movie’s Jumanji world, wherein Alan Parish (Robin Williams’ character) got stuck in.  But such connection doesn’t make sense.  The notion I got from the first movie – which I uphold while and after watching the movie – is that its Jumanji world has more of a “19th century jungle adventure” setting.  It should not have motorcycles and helicopters.  Furthermore, as a kid, though I liked the Jumanji movie, I significantly liked the spin-off animated series more.  So my idea of what the Jumanji world should be  was shaped by the excellent worldbuilding of the animated series, and a part of me was hoping that Welcome to the Jungle would reflect that.

To sum it up, as a popcorn movie, I like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.  But as a canon sequel, I dislike it.

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