Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Director: Jake Kasdan
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas
Released: December 20, 2017
Viewed in theaters: January 7, 2018
Since this is still fairly new, there will be spoilers!
I guess I assumed this was a reboot of the 1995 movie with Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt, and Kirsten Dunst (you can find my review of it here), but it's actually a sequel. It picks up twenty years after the first movie left off. There are enough little shout outs and references to the first movie to satisfy fans of the original, but if you've never seen that one, you won't be lost watching this one. This is its own movie and while the premise is the same, there are enough differences so this isn't a carbon copy of the '95 film.
This one begins in 1996 and a teenaged boy named Alex hears the familiar Jumanji drums (well, familiar to the ones who have seen OG Jumanji!) and he finds the cursed board game. He takes it home with him even though he wonders outloud, "Who still plays game boards?" (Okay, so then why did you take it home with you?) The next day he opens the game and it has magically turned into a video game which he starts to play. We don't see what happens to him (but you can probably guess if you've seen the trailers to this movie!) and instead it cuts to twenty years in the future and we are introduced to our four main characters who will be played by more famous people in about twenty minutes (well, I wasn't familiar with Karen Gillan, but not everybody can be on the same fame level as The Rock!)
Four high school students (two boys and two girls) find themselves getting detention that day. Let's see, we have the jock, we have the weird loner girl, we have the popular girl, and we have the smart kid. We're just missing our Judd Nelson and we would have The Breakfast Club! They are left without any supervision to clean out a room in the basement of the school and they're supposed to take staples out of papers. One of the kids finds an old Nintendo (??) game console with the Jumanji game. I'm not really sure how that game found its way there, but let's not ask silly questions. There is a TV conveniently located nearby and the two boys hook up the game. They start to choose characters to play in the game. When one of them tries to pick the first character he sees, it won't let him choose that one. We will later find out why that is. They get the girls to join them (by the way, I have never known a game console to have more than two controllers, but I don't play video games, so what do I know?) and the kids are sucked into the game.
This is when we can sit back and have some fun. We had the first twenty minutes or so to introduce us to the characters as their true teenaged selfs, but now we can watch what we all came to the theaters to see. It is very amusing because all the kids have turned into a character that is the complete opposite of who they are. Spencer, the main character and smart kid (he got detention because he wrote the jock kid's history paper) chose an avatar named Dr. Bravestone. He is played by The Rock, excuse me, Dwayne Johnson. Sorry, but he will always be The Rock to me. So we have this nerdy, scrawny kid and he becomes The Rock - you can't get any more opposite than that.
The jock kid is named Fridge and he's very tall and athletic. He's in detention since Spencer did his paper. We get a little backstory that these two used to be friends, but then drifted apart. He chooses a character named Finbar who's a zoologist and is played by Kevin Hart who is known for being short. There's a funny scene where he says, "The top two feet of me is missing!" The character he chooses also is not strong and has no speed, not at all what Fridge is used to in the "real world".
Martha is the awkward girl who doesn't like to interact with anyone and gets detention because she refused to participate in gym class and insulted her P.E. instructor in the process. She becomes Ruby Roundhouse "Killer of Men" (played by Karen Gillan) and becomes a badass who has all the fighting skills, including "dance fighting", whatever that is. She is very self-conscious because she's wearing a halter top, so she's baring some skin and doesn't approve of her outfit for being in the jungle. Her character is obviously an homage to Lara Croft.
Then we have what is probably the best change of all. Bethany is a whole bunch of cliches of the popular teenaged girl. She's self-absorbent, she's constantly taking selfies of herself, she's on her phone during class (the reason she gets detention), she says she is "too pretty" to do any work. If I went to that school, she would be the one person out of these four that I would hate the most. The others don't bother me, but she is just a terrible person. She chooses to become Professor Shelby Oberson whose main strength is being a cartographer, or a "map doctor" as she will later say. Turns out Shelby is short for Sheldon and she is appalled when she finds out she is now "an overweight middle-aged man" (played by Jack Black). Yes, it is very hilarious watching Jack Black play this role. Even though they're now in this video game and they have no idea how they got there and no idea how to get home, the only thing Bethany is worried about is her phone. ("Oh my God, you guys! Where's my phone?") We also immediately see Bethany/Jack Black get eaten by a hippo. The movie knows that she is our least favorite character and we want to see her get some comeuppance.
However, she is not dead (and is still a middle-aged overweight man!) as she comes crashing down from the sky. The kids soon realize that the three bars tattooed on the inside of their arms represent the three lives they get in the game. They will each go through two of their lives, making it more suspenseful if they will get home alive (of course they do, I didn't go in with any spoilers, but even I knew they would all make it out okay). Some of their lives are used for sacrifice, but we have a couple lives that are wasted, for example, when Fridge/Kevin Hart gets into a fight with Spencer/The Rock and Fridge pushes Spencer off a cliff. C'mon, why are you wasting lives like that?
The kids also realize that they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. This is when we find out that Finbar's weaknesses include "strength" and "speed". And cake, for some reason. This game seems very lopsided. If this was a real game (but not TOO real!), nobody would want to be Finbar and EVERYBODY would want to be Dr. Bravestone. His weaknesses are "none". He has no weaknesses! Everyone knows that when you choose a character in a video game, you have at least one weakness or else everybody would want to be that character. We see that Ruby's weakness is "venom" (and she will later sacrifice one of her lives when she is bit by a snake), but isn't EVERYONE'S weakness venom? Anyone can die if they have venom in their system. When Finbar eats a piece of cake (which he thought was bread), he explodes. That makes sense because that is his weakness and for some weird reason, in the game, it kills him. But eating cake won't kill the other characters
They learn that the only way to return home is to return a jewel that was stolen by the bad guy, Van Pelt (played by Bobby Cannavale) - yes, that name may sound familiar because that was the same name of the hunter who was part of the game in the original. They must return it to a huge statue and avoid Van Pelt and all the other dangerous elements along the way. Okay, can I just say this game sounds like something I would have fun playing? I played Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis back in the day (more of a PC game than a video one), and I love those games where you're on an adventure and have to figure out how to get to your next destination. Those fighting video games ala Mortal Kombat? No, thank you.
They come across a pilot named McDonough (played by Nick Jonas). Now you may remember when our heroes were still high schoolers in 2016 and were about to play the game, they couldn't choose the first character that popped up. That's because it was chosen by teen Alex from 1996. The four characters were trying to find the missing piece to their map and they soon realize that Alex is their missing piece. He tells them he's been there "a few months" (and that really confused me!) and that time is a bit wonky where they are. (Apparently!) We get a shout out to Alan Parrish, the Robin Williams character from the original when he brings them to a shelter in the jungle that Alan built when he was sucked into the game (I guess whether you're sucked into the board game or the video game, it's still the same location). Alex/McDonough tells them he's already used two of his lives trying to cross the canyon. There's a huge hangar full of choices and he's already tried the hot air balloon and the jet, but got shot down both times. I really love the scene where they go to the hangar to attempt to cross the canyon. This really is like a video game. I mentioned Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis earlier and there is a moment where Indy needs something and in order to get it, he needs to have his partner, Sophia, distract this guy so he can get what he needs. This scene totally reminded me of that. Well, not TOTALLY as there was no crazy flirting or fight dancing in the Indiana Jones games! In the film, there are two guards they need to distract so the hot girl in Jack Black's body teaches the awkward girl in the bombshell's body to flirt with them. She ends up being terrible at it, but luckily her skills of "dance fighting" comes in and she beats them up while "Baby I Love Your Way" (the reggae version by Big Mountain) starts playing. Totally random song choice, but I like that song. She single-handedly kicks their asses and anytime a woman kicks some ass, I'm all for it, especially when it's a redhead (but I may be biased!)
This is the scene where the others also learn that Alex hasn't just been there for "a few months". In the span of a minute, he starts spouting off all these '90s references and catch phrases ("getting jiggy with it" and "fly as Cindy Crawford" were the main ones I remembered), so when someone asks him what year he thinks it is, he replies with "1996" and is shocked to learned that his new friends are from twenty years in the future and the others are shocked to learn he's been there that long (he's been there since before they were all born!)
After the guards are down, they go in the hangar to choose their method of travel. Alex wants to use the school bus which was laughable there was even a school bus in there, but they decide on the helicopter. Obviously, this is a game where you need all five characters to beat it. Alex couldn't have made it without the other four and our four main characters couldn't have made it without Alex. Fridge/Finbar has to sacrifice his life when he drops the jewel and in order to get it back, he's killed by a stampede of rhinos (there are some pretty brutal deaths in this game!)
Bethany/Sheldon also sacrifices her life when Alex was stung by a mosquito (his weakness...which is a pretty terrible weakness to have in the freakin' jungle!!) and gives up her second life so he can have one. There's an ongoing joke through the movie where Bethany (in Jack Black's body) has a crush on Alex (because he's played by Nick Jonas) and keeps flirting with him. It is a nice moment that she sacrifices her life for Alex, but you know that if he didn't look like a pop star, she would not have given her one of her lives!
As they get closer to placing the gem in the statue, Martha/Ruby Roundhouse needs to retrieve it in a pit of snakes (super gross) after it's been thrown in there. Our bad guy, Van Pelt shows up and makes her give him the gem, but she purposely gets bitten by a snake and sacrifices her second life (although was it purposely? I feel like she would have gotten bitten by a snake even if she didn't intend to...if you're standing in a pile of snakes, most likely you're gonna get bit!) It was a smart move she made because she falls out of the sky right by the statue and she and Spencer/The Rock are able to place it in its rightful spot and they all yell out, "JUMANJI!" They have won the game and everybody is able to return to their old bodies and where they left off.
The four teens return to the high school and are wondering where Alex is. They go to his childhood house, which used to be boarded up and dreary and is now freshly painted and looks warm and inviting. They see a man in his thirties drive up and right away they know it's Alex. Three different people played this character: somebody played him as a teen in 1996, Nick Jonas played him when he was in the game, and he's played by Colin Hanks as an adult. He knows immediately who these kids are and explains to them that he was sent back to 1996 where he left off so it's nice that he didn't waste twenty years of his life! He tells Bethany he named his daughter after her, "after the person who saved his life". Awww.
The movie ends with Fridge smashing the video game with a bowling ball, but, c'mon, we all know there's gonna be a sequel!