With a holiday season as cold as this one has been, a trip to the movies with my family was a perfect way to spend an afternoon. Here in the town of Cobourg, Ontario, we have a better than average Rainbow Cinema. The screens aren’t huge, the seats don’t recline and the sound doesn’t make your eyes bleed, but the popcorn is fresh, the lines are short and the pre-show and trailers clock in at five minutes max. Overall, its a perfect place for my wife and I to take our two kids (boy, 6 and girl, 9) to enjoy a movie that doesn’t require 3D, IMAX or any other ballyhoo to be enjoyed.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this new, updated Jumanji flick, but it did have a few things going for it right off the top. First, The Rock (sorry, Dwayne Johnson). I’m a mark and thus far, with the possible exception of Doom, I have yet to not enjoy a movie that he was in. Second, Jack Black. I haven’t seen all his movies, but School of Rock will always have a spot on my shelf. And, third, Karen Gillan. Karen and I go way back to her days as Amy Pond, so seeing her get a second big Hollywood gig after Guardians of the Galaxy is a treat. I couldn’t tell you anything about the director and I’d only seen a few trailers, so stars aside, my expectations were measured to say the least.
What I got was a thoroughly enjoyable family film with the right balance of humour, action and character that made for a trip to the movies my whole family enjoyed.
Picking up with someone finding the cursed board game, the movie follows the idea that Jumanji pulls people into its world and traps them until they finish playing it. Needing to change with the times, it transforms itself into a cross between an Atari and and a Super Nintendo and does its thing.
The cast of teenagers that we know are destined to be replaced with the big name cast that also includes Kevin Hart and Nick Jonas. All play their parts and set up their given stories well. The nerd, the jock, the selfie-loving pretty girl and the girl with her nose in a book all wind up draw into the game where they are transformed into some very, very different people.
For gamers out there, Jumanji loads up on references from NPCs and their repetitive dialogue loops, to the various strengths and weaknesses of the characters that the teens inhabit once they are inside. There are some fun bits stemming from the video game premise that add some nice layers to the movie.
All the actors do a great job of portraying their teenage selves, so much so that I’m sure they spent plenty of time together working on mannerisms and behavioural ticks. Extra credit in this department goes to Jack Black, who plays the avatar the pretty girl accidentally chooses. He steals every scene he is in and drops at least one joke that was just far enough over my kids’ heads that I wanted it to stay there.
The story moves fast, the effects are crisp and well done, and they even work in a quick “Rock Bottom” in one of the fight sequences (Okay, its closer to a Yurinagi, but still). The sweet stuff is sweet, the teen angst stuff is used just enough and the message from the beginning plays out in the finale. Well paced, well delivered.
Going to the movies with my family, I’m always looking for something for all us. A hero for my son, a hero for my daughter, some laughs for the grown ups and a story we can talk about after. This movie hit all the marks and left us smiling and chatting on the way home.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is top shelf family entertainment and I highly recommend it to you and yours.