It Feels More Like Jumanji: Welcome to the Suck
Sitting through Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, I really had one question. Has anyone who worked on this film actually met a teenager?
The newest Dwayne Johnson vehicle turned out to be exactly what you might expect from it, a mindless action romp that offers very little other than confirming an awkward trend in The Rocks recent film projects. Considering the love that many had for the original film (at least when it comes to nostalgia) and the impressive comedic cast it sports, including the likes of Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan, this movie was capable of so much more. Unfortunately, it’s a movie that is solely made up of sequences that would be cool or funny and frantically races from one to another. The worst part is that most of the funny parts of it land flat and the action sequences feel about as dated as the original movie.
This time around, it’s a video game instead of a board game that sucks in unwitting players and forces them to play a dangerous game of survival. Of course, now that it’s a video game there are all sorts of funny tropes that the film can play around in. The downside is that Jumanji constantly feels compelled to explain everything from extra lives to video game avatars to everything else one might encounter in a virtual world (such as a non-player character or NPC). The thing is that this is most often done as one of the teens explaining it to the others, which manages to get under my skin because what teenager doesn’t know anything about video games? None of the characters seem Amish, so it’s hard to imagine them needing all these explanations. Of course, this is all done for the sake of the audience, but its execution is nearly painful.
Normally, this would just be something I would shrug off, but the entire film constantly stops as if to look at the audience and make sure they still understand what’s going on or remember that call back to something said 10 minutes earlier in the movie. It does this so often that it almost feels like it should preface with “previously on Jumanji.” Honestly, it’s bordering on condescending that Jumanji feels like the audience needs this special handling.
Of course, Jumanji isn’t a film that’s meant to be high art. It’s a fun-filled action comedy being released at the safest time of year for the genre, meaning that it’s pretty weak sauce when it comes to both comedy and action. In fact, the entire cornerstone of Jumanji seems to be built on the casting of Dwayne Johnson. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with Johnson’s performance in the movie, in fact, it’s hard to figure out how a man of his stature manages to be consistently adorable. Hell, all of the actors manage to eventually endear themselves to audiences. The question though is whether it’s the characters of the actors who are really behind this.
I’m pretty sure that most will be sorely disappointed with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, because it’s inadvertently aiming for a much more simple-minded audience. In other words, little kids will probably love it, grownup will probably groan through it. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few parts that brought out a chuckle or two. Most of the film comes off as a bit too desperate when it comes to cracking jokes or creating epic moments. It just never manages to hit home on any level. Don’t even get me started on the villain, who is hardly worth even remembering.
All in all, Jumanji Welcome to the Jungle is almost a perfect ending to 2017. As if The Last Jedi wasn’t a hard enough slap in the face, now this movie comes along to make us all wonder what we did to suffer so many disappointments this year. Here’s hoping next year manages to be a bit better.