Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle movie star cast: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle movie director: Jake Kasdan
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle movie rating: 2 stars
A remake of a surprise 1995 hit, this time with people getting sucked for real into a video game. At some level, this perhaps seemed like a good idea. At one level, while the players are teenagers going through the usual pangs of high school — of being nerds, sport jocks, the pretty girl, and the serious one — this has the scent of a good idea. But then the four teens end up in the game and the Jumanji jungle, and turn into the much older selves of Johnson, Hart, Black and Gillan. Why would you spend more than two hours watching middle-aged men and a woman go through exploits that look dated even on teens, and even of the four, essentially watch Johnson marvel at his own pecs, is a question that, one hopes, someone had asked.
The original Jumanji was based on a children’s fantasy picture book, and both of them saw animals entering the real world as one played the board game. Welcome to the Jungle works in reverse, with players finding themselves in a clearly digital forest.
That the video game isn’t a walk in the park is for sure. As we learn right at the beginning, when one lonesome teen puts it into a video console, and ends up disappearing. When the above four land up in Jumanji, the game turns out to be about restoring a jewel to the giant statue of a jaguar resting in the middle of the forest, so that the jungle can keep its peace and quiet. The jewel has been taken off the statue by a hunter called Van Pelt (reappearing from the 1995 film), and this has left him half-crazed with different-coloured eyes and insects crawling out of orifices.
While in the real world our protagonists were two girls and two boys, once transported to Jumanji, they take the form of menfolk Johnson, Hart and Black, and the pretty Gillan. The reason, one presumes, is that Johnson, Hart and Black were the three people with comic talent available for this venture, apart from the lesser-known Gillan. And, for that, one can’t complain, as Black has real fun playing a pretty-princess girl transported into an overweight-middle aged man’s body. Director Kasdan flirts with shades of homosexuality here, but only enough to stay on the right side of its rating of PG-13.
As part of restoring the jewel — a giant, green rock — to the jaguar statue, the foursome make their way through a generic African jungle with few animals except rhinos and a generic Middle Eastern bazaar with Oriental faces floating around. All have three lives each, which means dying isn’t really dying, even if we had serious doubts about that ever happening inside a video game. Meanwhile, the serious girl learns to shake her booty (literally), the nerd finds the courage to get a girl, the jock learns to appreciate friends, and the pretty girl learns to live without phones.
What do we learn? That we have seen this before, without the aid of a video game.