I just got back from seeing Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (a few weeks late) at the cinema and though it’s not strictly book related (or is it? Is there a Jumanji book? Mental note to research that later) I wanted to write something about it because I was really pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
Who knew I all I needed in my life was Jack Black pretending to be a popular teenage girl learning to pee as a guy?
A little context; even though it was released years before I was born, Jumanji (1995) joins films like Goonies, Gremlins, and Labyrinth in the group of films I have particularly fond memories of from my childhood. It is also, by far my favourite Robin Williams film. So needless to say, I had high expectations for any film claiming to be any sort of sequel. The cast was promising: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black and Kevin Hart all in one film?! And Karen Gillen was the Companion of that Doctor I refused to watch because of my David Tennant coma, so she’s probably good too!
But alas, I’ve been lured in with supposedly amazing casts before only to leave the cinema despondent and disappointed having found out all the funny and entertaining parts were in the trailer.
Thankfully, in this case, Jumanji did not disappoint. I was worried they would try to change the parts I loved so much about the original in an attempt to drag this nineties classic into the 21st century but they didn’t!
They did evolve the concept for sure, but I loved how they did it – though I did trip over the part where the board game inexplicably changes into an imaginary games console – and the idea that instead of the game spilling into our world, the players were dragged into the world of the game. The many references to the original – the game pieces, Alan Parrish’s name carved into a tree in the Nick Jonas’ hideout and so on were fun Easter Eggs to find, the soundtrack was pretty good and the action sequences were actually some of the better ones I’ve seen in films of this genre.
It’s not a film with a lot of depth in plot – which I think is what made it fun to watch – and parts made me cringe and others annoyed me (the smartest female character being taught to forget all that and just use her looks to get things done, for example) and is far from perfect but it was definitely watchable and I still thoroughly enjoyed it.
All that aside, the real star of the whole thing was Jack Black’s performance. I mean, I love the Rock and Kevin Hart but they pretty much play the same character (themselves) in everything. Jack Black is guilty of this also but in this case, not for a second did I forget he was acting the role of a teenage self-obsessed girl in the body of a middle-aged man for the whole of the film and he genuinely had me laughing so hard I choked on my popcorn and my face hurt at times.
There is also a scene at the very beginning where Bethany (Madison Iseman/Black’s character) goes through the grueling and lengthy process of taking an effortless selfie that I thought was just priceless and summed up the issues I take with Snapchat and Instagram in less than 30 seconds (bear in mind Bookstagram doesn’t count).
If you can, go down to the cinema and see it (or if you’re reading in the future buy the DVD – if they’re still a thing)- it’s a real laugh.
Edit: There is a Jumanji book, the one the original film was based on by Chris Van Allsburg – Jumanji meet my TBR list …