Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillen, Kevin Hart, Jack Black
Director: Jake Kasdan
Jumanji, the evil board game that sucks people in and traps them or unleashes jungle creatures into the homes of the players has evolved. Since no one plays board games, it hides itself as a computer console, and tricks four teens in detention into playing, sucking them into a game that they’ll have to work together to win if they want to survive.
This was the sort of remake that we never asked for or wanted. And yet… It’s surprisingly sweet, funny and entertaining. It contains references and similarities to the first film, but it’s definitely it’s own creature.
The four teens in question get turned into the opposite of their characters when they’re in the game. So the kind but shy and nerdy Spencer finds himself in the figure of the huge, brave leader (Johnson). Martha hides her vulnerability behind a stand offish attitude, but finds herself in the sexy figure of the outgoing man-killer (Gillen). The star athlete and confident quarterback Fridge finds himself in the role of the weak sidekick (Hart). And beautiful, shallow Bethany finds herself in the body of a 40 year old white guy and intellectual (Black).
In some ways, bodyswap comedy isn’t new and this film doesn’t do anything crazily original with it. But at the same time, it’s incredibly charming and funny, more than I expected. Perhaps what’s really lovely about it is that it just has fun. It’s not trying to be something it’s not and it doesn’t descend to cheap shots to get laughs. It has four really good performers who have chemistry with each other.
What perhaps elevates it is that it’s actually a pretty sweet film. There are some lovely moments between Bethany and Martha that are really warm, where Martha has to learn not to judge a book by it’s cover and have confidence in herself. There’s a sweet scene where the group thinks that Martha has to flirt to distract the guards, but actually it’s her ability to fight and be confident that’s key. And Bethany being proud of her is a nice girlboss type moment. On the flip side, Spencer has to learn to be a leader and trust his strength and confidence, while Fridge has to learn about not being the biggest and most arrogant guy on campus. They’re very funny, but there’s also the sense of some real lessons being learned that gave the film a bit of heart that makes it an extra enjoyable watch.
I was surprised by this film, though I do have a soft spot for movies with The Rock or Kevin Hart. It’s entertaining, it’s funny, it has good pace and funny situations. I really liked Jack Black as Bethany. It’s an entertaining watch with a little bit of everything, from action to romance, but most importantly comedy.
See It If: genuinely funny and sweet, perhaps it’s aimed at teens and family audiences, but it should please a wider audience too.