Video game films are a genre that has its hits and misses.
Tomb Raider seems to be the only franchise that has successfully made the crossover into film. Even then, it hasn’t had the most successful run either. There is just something about video game movies that audiences simply don’t enjoy. If you’re one of those people who think that video game films can’t be enjoyable or fun, then I challenge you to go out and watch Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
Welcome to the Jungle isn’t exactly a “video game film” in the sense that it was adapted from a popular video game franchise like Tomb Raider, Call of Duty, or BioShock. It just happens to be a sequel film for 90s movie adapted from a book that introduced the world to the cursed board game, Jumanji. The original Jumanji that starred a young Kirsten Dunst, Bonnie Hunt, and the affable Robin Williams. If I may be so bold, I think Williams would have enjoyed this film immensely.
Welcome to the Jungle tells the story of Martha (Morgan Turner), Spencer (Alex Wolff), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), and Bethany (Madison Iseman). The group land themselves in detention by various means of misbehavior in their high school. As punishment, they have to take the staples out of a huge stack of magazines before the magazines can be recycled.
While in the school’s basement, they discover an old Nintendo console and decide to have a little fun. When they plug it in, Jumanji pulls them inside. They need to save the video game world that is being threatened by an evil adventurer by the name of Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale). Martha turns into Karen Gillan or Ruby Roundhouse. Spencer turns into Dwayne Johnson or Dr. Smolder Bravestone. Fridge turns into Kevin Hart or Franklin “Moose” Finbar and Bethany turns into Jack Black or Dr. Shelly Oberon. While in the game, they meet Alex (Nick Jonas) who has been stuck in the game since 1996.
The acting and the writing are the standouts in this film. Gillan, Johnson, Hart, Black, and Jonas have a phenomenal amount of chemistry that probably will never be replicated again (unless they all decide to star in another film together again). The casting of Black as a super preppy blonde girl named Bethany was the best thing that this film did. He acted in such a believable way that it was hard to take my eyes off him. This was Black at his finest. In fact, this was everyone at their finest. Gillan is a pro at acting like she’s the world’s most awkward person. Johnson deserves s to act in more well-written comedy films. I think he’s really found his niche here.
To not mention the writing would be a tragedy. It has been a very long time since I have had the pleasure of watching a comedy that never had a dull moment or a joke that fell flat. Every joke in this film is as sharp as a tack. It’ll keep you on your toes and your stomach hurting. If you need an example of great timing and great writing, then this film is the perfect exhibition of the two. There is a scene where all the men are peeing in the jungle that really takes the cake because Black is simply on his comedic A-game.
In all, you really owe it to yourself to watch Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, even if you’ve seen the first one. It’s a film that really pays homage to its roots while simultaneously breaking from tradition and carving out its own niche in the entertainment world.
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