Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Film Critic Phoebe Hughes-Broughton is pleasantry surprised by the latest Dwayne Johnson vehicle, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the belated sequel to the 90s classic

I’m just going to get this out of the way in case you’re just here to hear me slate the latest in Hollywood’s line of ‘Classic-film-given-an-unnecessary-modern-day-sequel’: I thoroughly enjoyed Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Granted, I’ve never seen the original, but from what I can gather from reviews and clips it was mostly a cheesy kids’ film with bad CGI whose main redeeming feature was Robin Williams. So hearing that they had decided to make a sequel to it 20 years later, I didn’t have high hopes.

Much of the advertising revolved around the adult cast, who are great, if a bit of a random mish-mash of acting styles: Jack Black and Kevin Hart are both comedians, though rarely thought of in the same circles; Karen Gillan’s most famous role is in Doctor Who; and The Rock is probably more famous for wrestling than acting.

I thoroughly enjoyed Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Fortunately for this film, the fact that they all from non-overlapping circles works to the benefit of the film’s plot conceit: rather than a board game as in the original, the characters are thrown into a video game, where each of our child protagonists is turned into an archetypal video game cliché, whose reasons for being thrown together doesn’t necessarily need to make sense.

This plot contrivance allows the film to get away with some pretty heavy exposition through video game tropes like the NPC (non-player character) who basically just tells the cast what they need to do to escape the game, albeit with a few riddles and rhymes throw in to add some confusion. His instructions, along with a map that as an added level of difficulty can only be seen by Jack Black, leads them on a winding path full of generic bad guys until they bump into Nick Jonas. His appearance, if a little predictable – the trailers made it clear that he would be a big character, and the first third of the film is determined to emphasise that there is one too few teens for the full team – was actually a welcome addition. He may not be the best actor in the world, but he, like the rest of the cast, seemed more than happy to let go of his ego and go along with the ridiculous plot points that the video game setting required.

The effects, obviously, were far better than anything the first film could have hoped to achieve; if not always perfect, they were definitely as realistic as one could expect when they involved things like a hippo eating Jack Black. And, of course, they could always use the excuse that since it’s set inside a 90s video game, who would really expect the graphics to be perfect?

We do get some realistic character development with added hilarity
Admittedly, even outside of the video game, the film makes use of many cliched characters – the video game nerd; the popular girl who’s addicted to her phone; the weird loner girl; the jock – but by turning each of these caricature into their polar opposite inside the video game world, we do get some realistic character development with added hilarity. In particular, the popular girl being turned into Jack Black makes for some humourous lines, if you’re okay with toilet humour – the line “Martha, come look at my penis!” had the whole theatre erupting into laughter.

All in all, the humour in this film is great, although it does blur the line between adult and childish. It’s rated 12A, which might explain some of the more low-brow jokes – there is a whole scene about Karen Gillan’s character being an awkward teen who’s now thrust into a beautiful body and yet is unable to flirt, which was funny for a minute or two but does drag on a bit – but there’s also a fair amount of swearing (the line “Zoology, bitch!” got one of the biggest laughs at the screening I went to) and sex jokes, that might make adults think twice about bringing young kids along. For older teens and students, though, it walks the line perfectly.

The film tries desperately to subvert clichés and even at various points seems to be trying to educate kids about the fields of zoology and cartography (“I’m a map doctor?”) and inevitably, being a big-screen blockbuster that is also trying to pull a huge audience, but if you’re able to look past these mostly failed attempts at edutainment, it’s just a really funny ride.

Verdict: If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief and just settle in for a fun adventure with a hilarious cast, then this film will be perfect for you.

Rating: 8/10

Aspiring author. (@PhoebePhairy)


26th December 2017 at 9:00 am

Images from

Screen Rant and IMDB