By Simone Richardson
From book to movie to TV series and back to movie again, it’s safe to say I wasn’t going bananas over the news that a sort-of sequel to Jumanji was to be released. However, when I saw the trailer, involving stars Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan playing out Freaky Friday-style body swaps with contrasting high-school stereotypes, I was filled with intrigue.
At the end of the 1995 Robin Williams classic, the Jumanji board game is hurled into a river to which we then see the closing image of the game washed up on a beach. Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle continues this story in full 90s effect, with a teenager tossing the old game aside whilst questioning “who plays board games?”, after his father had found it on his run. Given his apathy towards the lack of technology, the game transforms into a video console to which he is sucked in.
Years later, four teens find themselves in a Breakfast Club-like detention when they stumble across the Super-Nintendo-esque console, select some rather misleading avatar characters and are indeed ‘welcomed to the jungle’.
Dwayne Johnson’s character Dr Smolder Bravestone is the chosen avatar of scrawny nerd Spencer, who you presume will put the ‘man’ in ‘Jumanji’ but still has his weak moments (“don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.”); formerly dominative jock Fridge becomes Kevin Hart’s petite zoologist Franklin Finbar (a.k.a “Mouse” for obvious reasons); and book-reading introvert Martha turns into Karen Gillan’s Ruby Roundhouse with less clothes on than Beyonce’s backup dancer. But the switch that entertained most outrageously throughout was ‘Miss Popular’ smartphone-addict Bethany who’s avatar, described as “curvy genius”, was Dr Shelly Oberon played by Jack Black.
In an age where gender-change is so widely discussed, Jack Black’s character explores modern controversies whilst keeping it innocently humorous with witty one liners (“I like literally can’t even”) and an array of different penis-related jokes when going to the toilet for the first time since the body swap (“the fact that I’m not Instagramming this right now is insane”).
In true ‘Top Trump’ style, the team use their avatar’s strengths and weaknesses to help each other through the tasks and tribulations they are faced with in order to reach the end goal of returning the sacred jewel and relieve the Jumanji jungle of its curse. Kevin Hart’s consistent struggle of his weakness for cake, Karen Gillan’s strength to ‘dance-fight’ with villains to reggae-hit ‘Baby, I Love Your Way’ and Dwayne Johnson’s weaknesses of, well, nothing, generously served deep-stomach laughs to all.
For something I wasn’t thrilled paying a tenner for, I came out feeling enthusiastically animated and pretty much all laughed out. The buffed-up modernised version of a classic, highlights relevant modern-day issues whilst playfully delivering topical gags from start to finish. If not a film for the whole family to enjoy together, then definitely the sort of light-humour designed for a hung-over Sunday in bed.