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Jumanji: Dated but fun

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Justin Kim, A&E Editor

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Well isn’t this a very strange selection for a Christmas review…

I have never picked up an old board game from the beach, brought it to my house, and then had it transform into a video game cartridge while I was sleeping before, but I’m pretty sure most sane people would at least say “whoa” before playing it.

Jumanji
…man, has it been over twenty years now? This series is older than I am. I dug up the first one out of my grandmother’s dusty closet when I was seven, and after getting a severe dusting from my mother, I watched it. It definitely hasn’t aged well, but I think it’s safe to say it’s fun in its own right? All in all, it seemed like one of those one-off ideas that is better off without any sequels.

…you can imagine my reaction when the sequel was announced.

I honestly would never have bothered with this film. I’ve seen too many cases of sequels of a generation-old film trying to rake in some money out of nostalgia; I dealt with one just two months ago with Blade Runner 2049.

But today, I happened to be strolling around the mall, saw the theatre near me, found that I had some money in my pocket, and realized I had nothing better to do this afternoon other than crawl into my closet with an armful of gingerbread men and Attack of Titan-ing them.

…what?

But anyways, I went in without expecting too much from the film. 119 minutes later, I walked out of the theatre with a severe craving for margarita.

 

(What do you mean I’m not old enough yet?)

The best way to describe it? This movie is an extended 80’s cartoon – and I mean that in the best way possible.

It’s silly. It’s tropy. The premise alone should tell you that. We have the nerd, the jock, the pretty girl, and the bookworm. The transform into The Rock, Kevin Hart, an overweight middle-aged man, and a scantily-dressed commando. They have life bar tattoos. Game status screens literally pop out of them when they press their…left pec. Or in female cases, their left –

ANYWAYS, everything the film pushes that video game setting to the max, and that sets the tone for the rest of it. Normally, that goofy atmosphere would be bad news – if the film still tried to play it seriously.

It doesn’t.

It knows that it’s kinda outdated, it knows that it’s going to be goofy, and it embraces that, and chooses to enjoy it. The climax has Kevin Hart riding an elephant against jaguars screaming “ZOOLOGY, B***H!”

Is that good filmmaking? I don’t care, Kevin Hart is riding an elephant into battle screaming “ZOOLOGY, B***H!” What more do I need to have fun with this movie?

The actual characterization is shallow, and so does any drama that they try to have in the film. I haven’t watched too many 80’s and 90’s TV shows, but I can safely say nearly every emotional moment that is in the film has been done before. One guy need to up his ego, the other needs to cut it down, some fall in love, others quarrel but make it up as they go through life or death situations – been there, done that, can we get back to the girl commando kicking dudes off of speeding motorcycles?

But to be fair, while it’s cringy, those moments are brief, just sprinkles of humanity before we get to seeing more of The Rock punching soldiers twenty feet into the air. And it’s never unbearable thanks to the cast being effortlessly watchable. I am fairly certain no soul in Hollywood other than Jack Black can effectively play a high-school girl in a man’s body trying to take a leak and being amazed by his –

POINT IS, the chemistry between the four main cast adds to the enjoyment of the movie. Yes, the actual lessons about teamwork and friendship they are learning made me groan every time, but at least I can watch The Rock and Karen Gillian trying to kiss each other while looking like they drank twelve packs of undiluted lemon juice.

If you are still doubtful, here are some quotes from the film that sound ridiculous but somehow still work:

“Cake makes me explode.”

“Why am I wearing half a shirt and short shorts IN THE JUNGLE?”

“Wait a second. Where’s my phone?”

“I DON’T HAVE THE TOP TWO FEET OF MY BODY!!!”

I don’t believe it either, but they actually work.

It’s been twenty years, but this game’s far from obsolete. This might not be the most heartwarming drama or the most expertly shot action flick, but it knows what it is – a cartoonish romp that results in a few groans and a load of laughs – and goes with it, resulting in one of the most fun films of the year.

Final Verdict: A-

 

ZOOLOGY, B***H!

                                   – Kevin Hart, 2017

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Jumanji: Dated but fun