AN UNLIKELY LIKE

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle

By Duck Kolenik

Do you ever hear about a remake of a movie you loved as a tot and immediately flutter your eyes so far into the top of your skull you think for a second they may get stuck?  I do.  And way too often these days.  The case was certainly no exception when I heard that my beloved Jumanji was being taken out for a spin.  I always get the same pang of betrayal in my gut, followed by a breathy “why”? The whole purpose of special China is for it to actually be special.  It can only stay as such if it is kept safely on display and only used once in a while.  This way, the meaning and fondness of its specialness remains.  If say, you took it out and painted another pattern over the original pattern you knew and loved for your entire life, it would become something completely foreign to you and ugly.  Memories and dishes destroyed! 

Okay, enough about China sets.  The point is that 9 times out of 10 there is no reason to remake something that was already made well, in my opinion.  Make something new.  If it sucks, at least it was original.  You can go down in flames, proudly.  So, when I was forced to watch Jumanji : Welcome To The Jungle, by my twelve year old godson, imagine my surprise when I found myself cracking up not five minutes in.  This film isn’t a remake of the original, it’s a complete reconstruction.  An origami crane turned into an elephant; both animals, but that’s about it.  The only sincere constant is they both involve a game.  Everything else has been reimagined.  Honestly, they didn’t even need to make it a second Jumanji.  It could have worked independent of the franchise.  Think of it more as an homage to the first one, and trust me that it’s real easy to get behind once you jump on that bandwagon.

The first part of the movie takes place outside of the game.  It’s a fast dive into the lives of four high schoolers who are about to have their adolescence paused, while they are accidentally pulled into a videogame.  The scenes are packed with talented teens in all their hormonal glory (Alex Wolf, Madison Iseman, Ser’Darius Blain, Morgan Turner).  Cut to the second bulkier part where we follow the kids in their new bodies.  They unknowingly chose these avatars while messing around with the body-sucking videogame during detention, hence how the madness transpires.  Dwayne Johnson is endearing and actually adorable in his typecast, while at the same time against typecast, role (when you see it you will understand).  I haven’t seen Jack Black in this light in quite a while; he’s pure joy and effortless.  Kevin Hart is Kevin Hart, but he is complimentary to the other character’s quirks.  The stand out of the bunch though, comes in the form of the lesser-known name and only female in the ensemble.  Karen Gillan plays the unsure of herself ass-kicker.  She’s all kinds of awesome; deadly and kind.  An alluring mix.  Bobby Canavale, Nick Jonas and Rhys Darby all add to the amusement with smaller, yet wildly effective roles. 

The conclusion is, I went into the movie thinking it was a remake, and had my obvious apprehensions with the concept.  After seeing it, I’m still not quite sure exactly what it is (revamp, reboot, sequel), but I decided to toss aside terms and crush boxes and just accept it as an entertaining ride.  My beloved Jumanji has stayed untarnished in my mind and has retained its specialness (like my childhood China).  Jumanji : Welcome To The Jungle is a whole new design.  I’ll take if for what it is and even retain some hope that if “remakes” continue to be made, that perhaps they can veer off in the direction this one did. 

“Welcome to the jungle we’ve got fun and games…”  Guns N Roses

 

Peter Lorimer