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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle


Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas and Bobby Cannavale
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Certificate: 12
Release Date: 30 April 2018

When four high-school kids discover an old video game console with a game they’ve never heard of - Jumanji - they are immediately drawn into the game’s jungle setting, literally becoming the avatars they chose: gamer Spencer becomes a brawny adventurer (Dwayne Johnson); football jock Fridge loses (in his words) "the top two feet of his body" and becomes an Einstein (Kevin Hart); popular girl Bethany becomes a middle-aged male professor (Jack Black); and wallflower Martha becomes a badass warrior (Karen Gillan). What they discover is that you don’t just play Jumanji - you must survive it. To beat the game and return to the real world, they’ll have to go on the most dangerous adventure of their lives, discover what Alan Parrish left 20 years ago, and change the way they think about themselves - or they’ll be stuck in the game forever...

When I first heard that they were making a follow up to 1995's classic movie Jumanji, my first thoughts were "Why?". When I heard that Dwayne Johnson was going to star, I thought: "What?!?!"

The original is beloved by a certain generation as it was such a fun and original idea which, while looking a bit ropey by today's digital effects, was cutting edge for its time. Johnson is also not known for his comedy muscles... so was it going to be a serious action film? My heart sank.

However, somehow the producers have put together a great script and believable cast to give us a family action adventure comedy that is a worthy modern sequel to Robin Williams's original (there are even a handful of nods to the original - including Alan Parrish's Jumanji tree house home and giant statues that formed the player pieces for the board game).

However, this movie is not so focused on the digital set pieces. Yes there are some big and bold CGI sequences, but there are not as many different beasts as there were in the first movie. This time around the focus is, quite rightly, on the main characters.

The movie opens in the '90s with a teenager finding the Jumanji board game. As console games were all the rage then, the game mutates so that when the box is opened a game cartridge is enclosed. The teenager pays the game and promptly vanishes. Twenty years later a group of school kids in detention find the old console in a store room and start playing it - meaning they too are sucked into the game.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle takes elements of the original movie and adds a splash of The Breakfast Club (1985) and a pinch of Tomb Raider to deliver something a little different and a whole lot of fun.

The majority of the comedy comes from Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson taking the mickey out of themselves. The fact that Jack Black plays the avatar for a teenage girl could have been a one gag joke that got old very quickly, but Black plays it straight to the point where you actually do believe he's a girl in a man's body. Karen Gillan's character is the only one that feels a little too two-dimensional. Thankfully they did give her a scene where she gets to show that she is pretty slick when it comes to physical comedy.

Likewise, the movie's villain Russel Van Pelt (played by Bobby Cannavale) is pretty much pointless. He doesn't really do anything and has all the menace of a very bad pantomime villain.

I don't laugh out loud all that much when watching movies, but I did on a number of occasions here. Yes, there's the odd dodgy scripted line. Yes, there's the occasional plot thread and coincidence that will have you thinking: "Hmm, sloppy writing". But on the whole, if you just go with it you'll have a ball.

There was only one scene which I thought might be a little sensitive for some... When Franklin "Mouse" Finbar accidentally eats some cake he explodes... but he's the only member of the group carrying a large backpack and he explodes in the middle of a busy marketplace. While no doubt not the intention of the producers to make him look like a suicide bomber, that's unfortunately how it appears.

Extras include Gag Reel (2 min, 22 sec); Journey Through the Jungle: The Making of Jumanji (14 min, 54 sec); Meet the Players: A Heroic Cast (7 min, 08 sec); Surviving the Jungle: Spectacular Stunts (5 min, 47 sec - it was a surprise to learn that the scene where the bike rides up the statue and Smolder Bravestone swings on a grappling hook was filmed practically with CGI used only to enhance it); Attack of the Rhinos! (3 min, 56 sec); Book to Board Game to Big Screen & Beyond!: Celebrating the Legacy of Jumanji ( (4 min, 44 sec); and finally, the highlight: Jumanji, Jumanji Music Video (3 min 35 sec spoof music video of a theme tune for the movie performed by Jack Black and Nick Jonas).

If you're initial thought is: "Why on earth did they remaking Jumanji?!?" Then you too could be in for a pleasant surprise.


Darren Rea

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