I have only foggy memories of watching the original Jumanji on television as a child. I didn’t know who Robin Williams was at the time, but the action, mystery, and fear lent themselves to an unforgettable film. The PG-13 remake, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle centers around a similar plot, an unlikely group of high schoolers (the video game nerd, the football star, the bookworm, and the popular girl) find themselves playing the cursed game. Although this time, the reality-bending toy is not a board game, but a video game. Yes, in this reboot of Jumanji, Jumanji itself is also a reboot. There’s something unwittingly poetic about it.
If this mystical video game did exist, it would undoubtedly be played with a Playstation—Welcome to the Jungle is very congruent with the Sony school of filmmaking for a modern audience. The dialogue is sprinkled with such archetypally pop expressions as “Yes Queen!” and “I literally can’t even.” Background characters can be seen with brightly dyed hair, characters monitor the popularity of their social media posts, and careful note is taken of how phones today are a lot more advanced than at the time of the original Jumanji. Although this modern touch is apparent, it doesn’t overshadow the action-comedy elements of the majority of the film, which takes place within the “game world” as the high school protagonists adapt to their in-game counterparts, played by Dwayne Johnson (in a part almost-certainly tailored for the Rock), Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan.
Welcome to the Jungle gets a lot of humor from the characters adapting to their new alter-egos, the fantasy world they traverse, and the mechanics of their in-game quest. The film makes continuous references to the fact that they’re inside of a retro video game, the plot reads much more in-line with standard action rather than anything targeting a “gamer” audience. There were a variety of moments where the film had a chance to make a more specific game reference (when Johnson’s character has to repair a helicopter mid-flight he connects nonspecific parts when he could’ve more easily pulled out a Battlefield repair tool). In fact, the majority of the game humor boils down to “NPCs repeat their lines” and “no more lives means game over.” That said, the nonspecific game world lends itself to the modern feel without explicitly dating the film with attempts at Ernest Cline-style “geek humor”—you can interpret that how you will, but I admittedly consider it to be a plus.
Speaking of the NPCs, one interesting thing is that although the game continually implies they aren’t sentient with the “repeating dialogue” gag, there’s more than one scene where the in-game villains talk and discuss their unfolding plans with no relationship to the players whatsoever. It calls into question how much investment we should place into these characters or the in-game world beyond its hold on the unwilling protagonists. These questions are interesting, although they take a backseat to the action and high-school flirting humor.
Despite the jump from PG to PG-13, Welcome to the Jungle forgoes a good deal of the mystery and fear of the original Jumanji for a more fast-paced, funny take on the franchise. I don’t believe that Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle will be a film that a lot of people will still be discussing ten years from now. That being said, the film is a really fun ride and a textbook Rock adventure flick with good action and a decent supply of laughs.
COVER PHOTO: Screen Rant