director: Jake Kasdan
writers: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg & Jeff Pinkner
starring: Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart and Jack Black
genre: Action | Adventure | Comedy
released: 20 December 2017 (USA), 21 December 2017 (Germany), 26 December 2017 (Australia), 11 January 2018 (Greece)
Any remake or reboot hopes to cash in on IP recognition and fan nostalgia. Any audience member on the other hand, wishes that the new incarnation is at least respectful of what came before and different enough at the same time. So, it's not to be considered a waste of time from both sides. Thankfully, both can be said regarding the new Jumanji with the direction and tone taken that will please most and bring in new fans to the series.
Potentially set in the same universe as the first film. The mystical/supernatural game of Jumanji continues to entice individuals to play it and then forcefully immerse them in its jungle setting for adventurous, but also a dangerous journey.
This time the board game now turned videogame has its sights on four teenagers during a detention session at their high school. It traps them in the game as fictional characters where they must cooperate to succeed in completing the game and manage not to lose all of their lives in the process.
Initially, everyone was worried that this film wouldn't work due to the Robin Williams factor. And while Robin Williams was a great part to the success of the previous film, it wasn't your typical Robin Williams film and role of him going crazy (similar to Jim Carry vehicles). The actual bit that the production rightly understood to be a concern was not with Robin Williams missing, but the original film's tone. No point to make it again dramatic and slightly visceral. Which in comparison to the new film it was. They now made into a comedic thrill ride and also more family oriented, but not to large degree (more on this later).
The choice of taking the series towards a more brighter future was both smart and wise creatively, but also financially. The family audience guarantees extra tickets without accounting for nostalgia. While the other smart decision of changing the game Jumanji from a board game to a videogame was brilliant (different generation, different habits). This though also helped in the movie with its plot and having the characters stuck in a game based on rules of a videogame adventure with all of them having special skills. Naturally, helping the characters do cool things and entering into silly situations. Moreover, it also makes them self-reflect on what made them special originally and thereafter once they received the special powers and were tested with them. Putting them through a grinder of what is important in life and that you are only living it once. While also being okay with who you are compared to everyone else, realizing that we all have strengths and weakness and to continuously strive for something based on what you can do in life while learning and cooperating with others. Positive messages for any film, especially so for children and young adults.
In regards, to this being a family film. There is a lot of humor that is questionable in terms of it being kid friendly. A lot of it happens to be sexual and the jokes that exist would work with teenagers and tweens maybe in understanding the context, but younger than that it would be either inappropriate or will most likely not even register in terms of their significance to them. As usually is the case with younger minds that even though you may say something naughty, they will not necessarily have any idea of the why and the how (this was the case with me and 'American Pie' when I saw it at the age of around 11). Still, not a deal breaker, but should be mentioned.
The action in the film which is one of the main selling points isn't bad and has a lot of scenes that are cool looking. The film though never has these scenes be the show stoppers and the real moments where it shines are when these young kids act out their fantasies and are put in these fish out of water situations. The adventure they go on is funny with the game rules and also is serious enough that they get to slowly realize the consequences of not working as a team. It also helps that the actors chosen perfectly to fit the characters and their is chemistry between them.
Additionally, while the villain wasn't anything spectacular and the arc of the main characters not as dramatic as the first Jumanji it all still works. Even with some cheesy moments (dance fighting) and the slow start the film has. It really gets rolling by the point they get in the game and your never bored their after. It would be nice if final act of the film where they finished the Jumanji game was a little more elaborate and there was a slightly more developed story for the kids outside of the game, but you shouldn't be asking or expecting that much out of it come to think about it.
For a family with teenagers or tweens this film isn't a bad sale with the positive messages and uplifting story. It might be a little inappropriate at times, but it never goes too far in my humble opinion to be lewd or something that teenagers shouldn't even be aware of or laugh at. Lastly, old fans might enjoy the new film for the fact that its different and doesn't try to steal the old film's thunder. And while it isn't better than the original, it never had to be.