Movie Review | Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Movie summary: Four teenagers are sucked into a magical video game, and the only way they can escape is to work together to finish the game. (IMDb)
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was to the last holiday season what Aquaman has been to this one: a fun film that lets the audience relax by never taking itself to seriously and making some serious money at the same time. The difference is that Jumanji is actually good.
Unlike Aquaman, Jumanji gives its cast a lot of great lines and interactions with each other, in addition to some solid character work with the central foursome all evolving in some way to leave them better people than they were when the film began.
Much of the credit does have to go to the cast though, with them all putting in terrific performances - especially Dwayne Johnson and Jack Black. It really does look like they had a great time working together on this movie and that really does come across on-screen.
And Black manages to deliver this fantastic performance while playing the role of a teenage girl trapped in a middle-aged man's body. This is where you can really see what he brought to the role, as the lines are funny, but it's the physical side that really helps sell it.
Not to dismiss Karen Gillan or Kevin Hart though - the latter giving the weakest performance by essentially playing himself as usual, but he's still pretty damn funny and the moments between his character and Johnson's are some of the movie's funniest moments.
Johnson gives what is probably my favourite performance of his career here, playing a kid who is a bit of a loner the body of a physical god. It's just flat-out fun to see someone the size of Johnson have to tell himself not to cry or screaming in terror.
It's a good thing that everyone is great in their roles, because the central plot is actually the weakest part of the film. It doesn't help that the villain of the piece, played by Bobby Cannavale, is just kind of there - never once feeling like he's ever a threat to the protagonists.
When you get to the end of the film, you'll have had a good time and definitely not feeling like you've wasted a couple of hours, but it's still not quite as satisfying as it could be either. It's almost like Jumanji is worried that you won't like the main characters enough and doesn't want to take any attention away from them.
That the score is completely unforgettable and some of the visual effects aren't too hot either doesn't really help, so maybe the focus on the main group is not only to show off how great they are together, but to try and help paper over all of the other gaps that might show otherwise.
The last word needs to go to the younger cast and how good they are too, even if their characters don't work quite as well as the 'in-game' adult versions. The younger performers all do their best, but don't quite have the same charisma or screen presence to light it up like the senior pros.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a good film thanks largely to the chemistry between the main characters and how likeable all of them are. The film really wants you to root for them, but does itself no favours with a completely forgettable villain.