Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

Sequels tend to be a mixed bag.  Jumanji is more so.  It had this other movie named Zathura: A Space Adventure, which wasn’t really a sequel and not quite a knockoff.  (Both Zathura and Jumanji were based on books with Zathura’s book being more of a true sequel, apparently.)  Apparently, someone decided to make a sequel to Jumanji which is only marginally more of a sequel in that it uses a few names from the original film.

The story centers around four high-school students:  Spencer, Fridge, Bethany and Martha.  One day, they all find themselves in detention where they discover a video-game console.  This is no ordinary console.  It’s a special no-name console that has a cartridge which was actually the Jumanji board game that remade itself.  It was actually found by another kid, Alex Vreeke.  He’s trapped in the game much like Alan Parrish was in the original movie.

When the four kids find the console, they each chose a character.  Fridge takes “Moose” Finbar.  Bethany takes Professor Shelly Oberon.  Spencer gets Smolder Bravestone.  Martha becomes Ruby Roundstone.  This mainly serves as a way for each kid to see what life’s like the other way around.  The muscular Fridge is now played by Kevin Hart whereas the nerdy Spencer is now played by Dwayne Johnson.  The shy, less-than-attractive Martha is now played by Karen Gillan whereas the attractive, self-absorbed Bethany is now played by Jack Black.

Each character also has certain attributes.  Smolder is known for his smoldering good looks and strength.  Ruby is good at dance fighting.  Each player has three lives, which is usually used to comic effect.  The game itself has all sorts of dangerous obstacles to overcome. Along the way, the characters eventually meet up with Alex, who has been stuck on one area for a while.  And when I say a while, I mean 20 years.  (He’s living in a tree house that Alan Parish built.)

The movie, like the video game, seems like an update for a more modern audience.  There are in-jokes, like the character selection and attributes.  It’s almost as if it’s a remake rather than a sequel.  (There’s only a tenuous connection to the original.)

I will say that this installment seems to be more levelheaded.  The first Jumanji was a wild ride and seemed to exist just for the thrills.  This movie has a little more character development, although most of that is cliché.  Everyone comes to understand the others a little better.  As with the original movie, everything is set straight again.  The major difference is that this time, everyone in the game remembers what happened.

It’s rare that I admit that a sequel is an actual improvement over the original, but in this case, it’s not saying much.  The first movie didn’t really set the bar too high in many regards.  To say that cliché is an improvement should tell you something.

I’m kind of wondering if the next installment will explain how the game came to be.  I’m not sure if I really want that, though.  I don’t think it would really be necessary.  It doesn’t matter who or what created the game.  Knowing that such a sadistic thing exists is enough.

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