Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle Shows Off Jack Black’s Comedic Genius
Detention sucks. Detention spent removing staples from magazines destined for the recycling depot is worse. Detention where you and three of your classmates are pulled into a demonic video game console and made to fight jaguars, black mambas, hippopotamuses (way angrier/hungrier than they look, btw), and a band of flamethrower-wielding soulless maniacs on motorcycles is really bad—but it makes for a much better movie than a simple staple-removing storyline would.
Welcome to the world of Jumanji, a game that’s been luring child victims into its world to roll the dice and gamble on their lives since 1995. Not that a kid would think to pick up a pair of dice these days. In 2017, it’s all about VR and apps and riding your hoverboard around the mall. And so Jumanji, too, has been updated. Now it’s a video game. Like, the kind the requires a cartridge you have to blow on so dust motes don’t cause it to glitch. In other words, it’s a relic. One that can spark a reluctant curiosity in a group of teenagers (as long as they have absolutely nothing better to do).
Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle has a cast that includes Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and our favourite Doctor Who companion, Karen Gillan—but we don’t meet any of them until around the 20 minute mark. We start with a group of mismatched teenagers (think The Breakfast Club: there’s the jock, brain, popular girl, and unpopular girl archetypes) but quickly see the high school social hierarchy flipped on its head when Jumanji’s gaming avatars become their new reality. It’s a funny gag, watching everyone acclimate to their new bodies, but director Jake Kasdan fumbles it by leaving his actors pantomiming for an uncomfortably long time to no extra effect.
Where Welcome To The Jungle succeeds is in its actors’ willingness to make fun of themselves (that, and a steady stream of clever one-liners). Black, especially, stands out with his sweetly self-deprecating portrayal of the selfie-obsessed popular girl trapped in a body that looks like, well, Jack Black’s. Once she gets over her iPhone-based separation anxiety, Black plays her as curious and unselfconscious and the writers don’t rely on the obvious ‘hot girl in a middle-aged man’s body’ jokes that seem like such low-hanging fruit. It’s refreshing (and way funnier).
The Jumanji reboot also features Flight of the Conchords’ Rhys Darby, a creepy (and crawly) Bobby Cannavale, and Nick Jonas (who used to be in a band or something). Welcome To The Jungle opens in theatres this Wednesday, December 20, and don’t worry, you will get to hear the classic Guns ‘n Roses song that inspired the title. Check out the trailer below.