Saturday, December 30, 2017

Movie Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

The magic game board evolves into a video game in this updated sequel of the comedy classic. When a jogger finds the board game on the beach, he brings it back to his son, Alex, who is not interested in playing a board game and plays video games instead. That night, the game transforms into a game cartridge and sucks the boy into the game. Years later, Spencer (Alex Wolff) hands over a paper to Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain) in front of the missing boy's house that is now considered haunted. Bethany (Madison Iseman) is a self-obsessed popular girl who loves to post pictures on social media. She talks on the phone during a quiz in class and winds up with detention. Martha (Morgan Turner) is an introvert who doesn't want to participate in gym, which also lands her in detention. Spencer and Fridge are caught cheating and round out the group of detention. They have to clean out the school basement where the Jumanji came has been hidden away. They play the game each choosing characters and find themselves being sucked inside.

Spencer turns into Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), a muscle-bound adventurer. The football player Fridge is shrunk down when he becomes Franklin "Mouse" Finbar (Kevin Hart) because he mistook the nickname for Moose. Martha becomes Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), a scantily clad killer of man. Much to Bethany's horror, she is changed into the chubby middle-aged man Shelly Oberon (Jack Black). Spencer catches on quickly that it is a video game, especially when Bethany is eaten by a hippo and returns with one less tattoo on her wrist. The tattoos serve as life makers. They are picked up by Nigel (Rhys Darby) who explains the goal of the game through a cutscene. They have to return a jewel to the eye of a mountain shaped like a jaguar.

The villain Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale) obtained the gem and is able to control animals with his mind. His henchmen pursue the group on motorcycles constantly shooting rockets and bullets at them. Martha is able to use Ruby's fighting skills to deter the pursuers but is shot in the process. Bravestone uses a boomerang to fight them as well. The group begins to air their grievances as Martha calls out Bethany for being shallow and Bethany considers Martha to be judgemental. Fridge blames Spencer for getting caught cheating and pushes him off the cliff. Nigel had instructed them to find the missing piece in a bazaar. They discover a snake in a basket and Fridge uses Finbar's zoological skills to defang the reptile. Van Pelt and his men attacks and Spencer uses Bravestone's fighting skills to beat them up until Alex arrives as the avatar Jefferson "Seaplane" McDonough (Nick Jonas). 

Alex has learned the game quite well but hasn't been able to get past the transportation shed. Bethany teaches Martha how to use Ruby's body to flirt with the guards and distract, though the nature of the game doesn't let them have more than one reaction so she beats them up using her dance fighting skill. Alex pilots the helicopter but it breaks in their escape so Spencer has to fix it. Fridge drops the jewel so they swing back but then Spencer sacrifices him to distract a herd of charging rhinos and retrieve it. McDonough has a weakness of mosquitos so Alex loses his last life when he is bitten by one until Bethany gives him CPR and it transfers one life.  The group makes it to Jaguar Mountain and Spencer tries to lead the way but a squirrel frighten him and the feline namesake of the mountain attack him and take his next to last life. They work together with Fridge planning it out like football using Bethany and himself as distractions. Martha sacrifices Ruby's second life and flings the jewel to Spencer so that he can end the game. They return to find that Alex has grown up and started a family. The group destroys the game at the end.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a funny and action-packed sequel that retains the humor of the original even as it uses a ton of special effects to match a much simpler film. With big stars and the great comic duo of Hart and Johnson at the center of it, the film has loads of great jokes and a ton of action sequences that make the film a fun little popcorn flick. It is having some box office success and was even sold out the first time I tried to see it. It has tough competition but may come out on top in its second weekend. The movie was very enjoyable and I'd be curious to see if they come up with a sequel soon or in many years from now. 

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