Finally, another remake that is good.
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” came out in the fall of 2017. I really wanted to see it, but between finishing my last semester of college and looking for a job, it slipped to the bottom of my priority list. So, on Saturday night when my friends and I found the movie available for rental on Xfinity, we checked it out and I’m so glad we did.
In this remake, Jumanji is a video game instead of a board game that sucks in four teenagers who play it while avoiding detention. There’s Spencer, an insecure geek with friendship problems; Fridge, an arrogant football player; Bethany, a self-absorbed Instagram star teenage girl; and Martha, a critical and intelligent yet unconfident girl.
When these teenagers fall into the game, they become the characters they chose. Spencer becomes a strong, muscular adventurer played by Dwayne Johnson. Fridge becomes a weaker zoologist who must rely on his intellect, played by Kevin Hart. Bethany becomes an overweight cartographer who must adjust to living in a man’s body, played by Jack Black. Martha becomes a hot, tough fighter who has to use her strength.
Later, they meet Alex, another teenager stuck in the game played by Nick Jonas. Together, they must work together to make it through the game without losing their three lives.
This movie is an example of a remake done right. It can be enjoyed with no knowledge of the previous movie and is different enough to not feel like the same thing as the original. The movie does several things well in particular.
Firstly, the comedy is great. The adult actors are funny and completely believable as teenagers stuck in adult bodies. They all do a great job adjusting to an awkward situation while trying to survive, but the standout is Jack Black who hilariously nails being a self-absorbed teenage girl adjusting to living in the body of an overweight man.
Secondly, the story is well-written and interesting. The main plot, of course, is fun, but the secondary story is even better. These high schoolers are all forced to become characters whose strengths are the opposite of their normal selves, and while it’s funny, it’s a hard adjustment for each of them and they have to rely on each other to get through it. As a result, each of them is forced to confront their own insecurities.
To go into detail would be diving into spoiler territory, but I will say the character growth and their growing friendships are both funny and touching.
Thirdly, I love how well the video game mechanics are used in this movie. Since the characters are stuck in a video game, their world operates with video game logic, specifically 90’s video game logic. They have a limited number of lives, they wear ridiculous outfits, they hear convoluted backstories, they interact with non-player characters, and so on. It’s great.
Although I must admit I am not as familiar with 90’s games as 2000’s games, I was still familiar enough with the references and rules to warm my geeky heart. The mechanics are not present enough to be overbearing to those unfamiliar with video games, but they are present just enough to make the geeks in the audience very happy.
Fourthly, this movie never tries to be the first “Jumanji” movie. Unlike, the first “Jumanji” movie, which was mostly kid-friendly adventure with some good drama, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is comedy and action aimed at an older audience. The other film is barely even acknowledged. There is only one reference made to it throughout the entire film and that is all the reference it is given.
To me, that is the sign of a great remake. Whether you’re a fan of the first “Jumanji” film or you want action and comedy with more character depth and a geeky flavor to it, check out this movie for yourself. I cannot recommend it enough.