JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE REVIEW

Welcome to the Jungle. We’ve got fun and Dwayne.

Four teenagers are sucked into a magical video game, and the only way they can escape is to work together to finish the game.

When I first heard the rumours circulating about a Jumanji sequel/reboot/whatever, I screamed to the movie gods . . . Why?! Do Hollywood hold nothing sacred?

Jumanji was one of my favourite childhood movies that featured the late (BUT always great) Robin Williams.

BUT then I saw the cast and thought, “This could work”. And it did.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t perfect by any means BUT Jumanji: WTTJ offered big, dumb fun by the bucket load.

I liked how the team tried to make the premise their own. Taking it in a completely different direction BUT still throwing fitting nods to the 1995 classic (Classic? It’s only 95 mate).

The opening set the tone as the dusty relic of a board game realized that it was behind the times. Morphing instead into a vintage 80s video game console . . .

Yeahhhh BUT it worked. Pulling four dysfunctional youths into the abyss.

I loved how the different personalities took over the wrong avatars. Delivering the laughs straight off the bat.

The nerdy hypochondriac Spencer taking on the unit that is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

The Rock knows how to deliver a popcorn movie. Embracing the ridiculousness of it all as his avatar has no weakness and endless abilities. The smolder . . . Seriously? Only the Brahma Bull could pull that one off.

The dumb arrogant high school jock taking over the miniscule servant Kevin Hart. An avatar riddled with an array of weaknesses (No pace, no stamina and . . . CAKE. That’s right. Cake). Brilliant.

You knew you were in for a treat when The Rock and Kevin Hart were involved. They work so well together and you couldn’t tell how much of the banter was part of the script or just off the cuff. Judging by the Rock’s face . . . A lot of improvisation was going on.

The shy academic nerd taking on the Lara Croft bad ass avatar (Karen Gillan). I know Gillan had a little backlash over her skimpy outfit BUT The Rock was poking fun at his physique. Plus the joke picked out some of the sillier aspects of early video games/imagery.

Gillan owned it. The only thing I could pick at her performance was not anything she did BUT her character’s fighting tactic. Dance fighting?

Beating people up to the sweet sounds of Big Mountain’s Baby I Love Your Way? The first sequence wasn’t too bad BUT the several that followed . . . Yeah, not so much.

However, her exchanges with Jack Black were fantastic. Especially when Black gave her lessons on how to attract a man. I was in stitches.

And despite how good everybody was . . . Jack Black, take a bow.

He stole the show as the photogenic selfie taking high school beau Bethany took over his overweight professor avatar. Even when he went to the toilet in the jungle with the lads, I was howling. The School of Rock star has been missed.

I don’t think this would have worked without the cast. Nick Jonas didn’t play too bad a part BUT his character was a little bit boring for me.

The limited lives threat gave it a little more edge as the gang had to adapt to their avatars fast! You die in the game, that’s it!

It was entertaining with enough thrills, spills and avatar kills. Seriously, I wasn’t joking about the CAKE thing.

The special effects and fun set pieces delivered enough ooohhs and aaahhhs.

The stampede sequence will never top the original. BUT it was still mental to watch (Even if it was a little disorienting and packed with some shoddy CGI). Bearing in mind, the orignal is now 23 years old (23! Now I feel old), the effects looked more dated in this one.

However . . .

Flight of the Conchords’ Rhys Darby was completely wasted as a virtual avatar.

And Bobby Cannavale as Van Pelt? Now you could have banked on the Boardwalk Empire maestro to inject some villainy to his sinister demeanour. BUT maybe this was a miscast?

His freaky warlock bugged me. No literally, what was the deal with all those bugs crawling around him and in his ears? *Shudders* Yikes.

We needed someone with the pantomine delivery of Jonathan Hyde. He had the right balance of mayhem. Crazy but cold blooded. The dynamic (That chemistry) between him and Alan was missed in this. Cannavale’s Pelt was too bland and generic. Shame.

  

My main issue was the pacing. It took a while to get going as we had to endure the build up and get a sense of the teens. Easygoing stuff BUT you couldn’t help BUT think, “When are they going to find the flippin’ game?”

When it was funny, it was hysterical. When it was action packed, I was riveted. BUT all the stuff in between lumbered the whole thing and got me a little fidgety.

BUT a great cast, top laughs and some mad fun made this one to watch for everybody.

Enjoy!

3/5

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*NEW* GOOSEBUMPS REVIEW *NEW*

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Black is back!

Corny, frantic BUT highly watchable.

A teenager (Dylan Minnette – Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) teams up with the daughter (Odeya Rush – The Giver) of young adult horror author R. L. Stine (Jack Black – School of Rock) after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Madison, Delaware.

The opening 20 minutes was easy going enough as Minnette’s Zach moved to a new town and (even worse) a new school. And if that wasn’t bad enough. His own mother (Amy Ryan – Birdman) is the new vice principal! I liked the dynamic between Ryan and Minnette. It was a little disappointing to see that thrown out of the window for a cheesy little romance subplot between Zach and the mysterious girl next door Hannah (Rush).

Don’t get me wrong, the pair had good chemistry BUT it was all a little too schmaltzy for my liking. Thankfully it wasn’t too long before the obsessive Stine (Black) made his introduction. Welcome back, Mr Black. As soon as the big man kept randomly popping up at windows and fences, threatening Zach at every opportunity to stay away from Hannah, I was entertained.

It was a different side to Black. More subdued and obnoxious. Not quite as loud or in your face. BUT still on scene stealing form. He has been missed. And with Kung Fu Panda 3 fighting its way at the box office, we will be spoiled.

“If there’s danger, I will run the other way”. Ryan Lee (Super 8) was brilliant as social misfit Champ.

For fans of the real Goosebump books, all the little references were there. The whole magic spiel was a different take. Every creation Stine ever wrote coming to life. All the silly creatures that used to frighten you as a little ‘un (and may still do) were all there.

Slappy the dummy was the one that always freaked me out. And lo and behold, guess who made a special appearance? Black provides his sinister voice-over skills to bring the terrifying toy to life. Slappy’s movie makeover wasn’t quite as spine-tingling as his TV series counterpart. BUT I’ll let you be the judge.

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Shudder. Moving on . . .

The special effects were actually quite good. The 3D gimmick wasn’t missed so save your pennies. I couldn’t really pick any moments that would have better with it. The effects weren’t too cartoony BUT this is a kid’s film, let’s not forget. Can’t creep em out too much now. That’s not to say there weren’t a few jumpy bits that might have got the best of yours truly (What?).

The adorable BUT highly violent garden gnomes suggested a darker undertone and gave me that old Gremlins nostalgia as the gang fought wave after wave of them in the kitchen.

It was silly, a little cheesy BUT good fun as our dysfunctional heroes try to get every creature back in their paperback prisons. The endless statistics that Black spewed up about Stine’s career were all true. Believe me, I checked. Selling more novels than Stephen King?! A passing cameo delivering the perfect punch line.

BUT that’s not to say it was perfect. Just like Scouts’ Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and Paper Towns, Halston Sage was type cast (yet again) as another high school damsel in distress. Anyone could have played her and, by the end, you realized how unnecessary her character really was.

Amy Ryan was cast aside and reduced to nothing more than a naff running joke with her character avoiding the awkward advances of Ken Marino’s (We’re The Millers) high school coach. Unfunny and a real waste of another actress.

My main issue however, was despite this being a mad little movie; it felt rushed. Not enough of Stine’s ghastly ghouls were brought into the mix. Too many of them were quickly thrown in at the last minute that you couldn’t tell what was what.

It just seemed to push for a frantic finale after all that build up. Veep’s Timothy Simons was heavily underused as dimwitted Officer Stevens. More gags could have made with the guy. He had me in stitches in the two scenes he was lucky to feature in.

BUT grumbling aside, coming from a GB fan, this was a silly little blast from the past. It wasn’t perfect (and didn’t quite top the iconic TV series that ruined my childhood) BUT I could think of worst things to kill the time with the little ‘uns.

3/5 (Just)