01st May2018

‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ Blu-ray Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Bobby Cannavale, Nick Jonas, Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Ser’Darius Blain, Morgan Turner | Written by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner | Directed by Jake Kasdan

jumanji-welcome-2-jungle-blu

Directed by Jake Kasdan, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is only a sequel to its 1995 predecessor in the sense that it features a game called Jumanji that sucks people into it, so if you’ve been waiting 22 long years to see a load of poorly-rendered CGI animals running riot through a city then you should brace yourself for disappointment. Instead, this updated version (the board game is now a video game) is more like a fantasy action / comedy vehicle for co-stars Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, with Jack Black and Karen Gillan tagging along for the ride.

The film begins with four high schoolers discovering a dusty old games console while in Saturday detention. Finding a games cartridge with ‘Jumanji’ written on it, they decide to check it out, only to be magically transported to a fantasy jungle, where they find themselves in the adult bodies of the avatars they chose at the character selection stage. So nerdy Spencer (Alex Wolff) becomes muscled hero Dr Smoulder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), hulking jock Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) becomes tiny zoologist Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart), mousy Martha (Morgan Turner) becomes kick-ass Lara Croft-type Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) and Instagram princess Bethany (Madison Iseman) becomes overweight, middle-aged Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black).

This central gimmick – revealed in the trailer – is the main joke of the film and it wears thin pretty quickly, not least because the script bludgeons you over the head with it at every opportunity – Hart bemoaning his lack of height, an initially horrified Bethany learning to love her new appendage, and so on.

It’s clear that the scriptwriters (four of them in total) didn’t really think much beyond that gag, as the rest of the plot is decidedly underwhelming, even for a film about characters playing a video game. Additional plot elements include being hunted by an evil Big Boss-style villain (Bobby Cannavale’s insect-infested Van Pelt) and bumping into another player (Nick Jonas) who has no idea how long he’s been in the game, but Cannavale is sorely under-used and the film doesn’t really know what to do with Jonas’ character.

Slightly more successful, at least in terms of comic relief, is Rhys Darby as Jumanji’s cheerful in-game instructor Nigel, who can only speak in certain prescribed sentences, though that’s another joke that the film stretches beyond breaking point.

As for the leading actors, they are likeable enough that the film can just about scrape by on their combined charisma, but they never really generate any comic chemistry, which seems a little strange, given how well Johnson and Hart bounced off each other in last year’s Central Intelligence. What’s worse is that the film frequently feels like it’s trying too hard, with the actors reduced to mugging for the camera on numerous occasions.

Part of the problem with setting the action in a video game is that there’s very little sense of threat, regardless of the fact that they all only have three lives each. By the same token, the action sequences are entirely forgettable and rather lacking in imagination, particularly when compared to the madcap chaos of the original Jumanji movie.

To be fair, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle does have its moments (such as Martha discovering Ruby’s “dance-fighting” skills), but they’re few and far between. In the end, this is crushingly average and nowhere near as funny as it thinks it is, despite the best efforts of its likeable comic cast.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is available on DVD, Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD now from Sony.

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