March 20, 2018

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Bobby Cannavle

Remakes are always tricky. Do them badly (Annie) and the backlash is severe. Do them differently (Ghostbusters) and the backlash is severe. Do them better (The Parent Trap) and you've tied your fortunes to Lindsay Lohan. Just kidding.

But really, the original Jumanji starring Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt, Kirsten Dunst, and that kid who also voiced Chip in Beauty and the Beast was so good I was surprised they went for a remake at all. Surely it couldn't be good. I assumed it would go something like The Rock's sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth.

But I'm a grown-up who can admit when she's wrong and boy, was I wrong. The movie opted for scenario #2 from above (do it differently) and I think it's what made the story fresh and original, despite being a remake. Instead of a board game, it's a video game. And instead of two adults and two children, it's four teens who transform into their adult avatars for the game. It's maybe a little kitschy and over-played for the laughs about transforming bodies, but it's funny enough to make it worth it. I mean, for once, I'm wasn't annoyed by Kevin Hart doing the same overly-aggressive short man schtick.

The fast pace of the story and the concrete plot of moving through game levels to achieve a goal (getting out of the game) makes for an exciting watch. It's never too scary (the villain in the original is much scarier), never too slow, and never too cheesy. It's a good balance for a PG-13 action movie.

I will say, however, I was shocked by the amount of cursing in this movie. Don't get me wrong, I love a good swear word as much as the next person. But the number of of "bitches" and "goddamns" in this movie made me wonder if it was trying too hard to appeal to teens by seeming edgy. It certainly didn't need that kind of language and made it borderline inappropriate to show my younger-aged kids. (Ditto for the numerous penis jokes.) 

And Dwayne. Oh, Dwayne. I love me some Rock. I'm pretty sure everyone does. But he is clearly the weak link of this movie, which is sort of a problem when he's headlining it. Luckily, Jack Black turns in a pretty memorable performance as a teenage girl and Karen Gillan, who'd I'd never heard of before, is excellent so I can overlook Johnson's inability to portray anything but himself.

Final word: Good, but no longer appropriate for small kids. Then again, maybe the original wasn't really either.

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