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  Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Level Up
Year: 2017
Director: Jake Kasdan
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Rhys Darby, Bobby Canavale, Nick Jonas, Alex Wolff, Ser'Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner, Missi Pyle, Marc Evan Jackson, Mason Guccione, Marin Hinkle, Tracey Bonner, Colin Hanks
Genre: Comedy, Action, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Back in the year 1996, a young teen was playing video games in his room when his friend gave him a board game he had found on the local beach, seemingly washed up there. The boy was... not interested at all, and ignored it, to which the game somehow took umbrage - and learned from its surroundings. So it was that as a green light was emitted from the box that night, the contents no longer contained the board, but a games cartridge, and when it was placed in the console it dragged the boy into it somehow, leaving him missing from the real world yet still alive in the game. Nobody guessed this was what had happened until now, over twenty years later, when the game appears again...

Jumanji was one of comedian Robin Williams' biggest hits, the tale of a town under siege by a host of animals and plants that could only be stopped by winning that board game, but it represented one of the first blockbusters after Jurassic Park to truly make the most of CGI. Nowadays, no blockbuster worth its salt is without those graphics, but back then it was criticised for relying on what had not quite been perfected yet, to the extent that critics and audiences alike were hung up on the issue to the detriment of noting the film's finer points, among which were a game cast (no pun intended) who not only sold the drama of the situation but provided a route into the story for the younger viewers.

So much so that a whole generation had grown up with Jumanji where the older generation were unaware that it was so popular - but the studio were aware of it, and a new film based on the property was prepared, if anything proving an even bigger hit than the first instalment had been as that newer generation who saw it first time around brought their kids to see it, and that even newer generation who had grown up with it as a fixture on television or home video were a shoo-in to go and see whatever a fresh take on the material might bring. As for the critics, surprised that Jumanji remained "a thing" so long after the fact, they were also surprised to genuinely enjoy the sequel.

Of course, it wasn't a sequel in that there were no characters carried over from the first movie, but if the game was a character, then that was good enough. Surmising that nobody played board games anymore, or if they did they were not teens, or not enough to justify a retread of what had gone before, director Jake Kasdan and his team took the premise of Chris Van Allsburg's original book and re-adapted it to the video age. This meant that with everyone having not merely an avatar in the games they played, but in online presence as well, the target audience could relate to a set of characters who had to adopt a new persona, though cleverly this wound up presenting themselves a lot closer to their actual personalities, their souls even, than any face they wanted to show to the world in internet-land.

There had been stories of people entering computer worlds before, The Matrix an obvious example, Tron going back a bit, and contemporary with this Jumanji, Ready Player One, illustrating how the modern world was felt to be enhanced if you could regularly lose yourself in a fantasy realm no matter how "real" you wanted that realm to be. But The Wizard of Oz was drawn most from, as each of the teens dragged into the game to complete a quest realised they had it in themselves to be better people since that potential was inside them all along, and it needed this experience to bring it out of them, yes, the old waking up to your journey to self-improvement cliché that so many movies leaned on, but with an excellent cast to have what could have been hackneyed pop up fresh as a daisy. Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black (as a girl!), Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan played combinations of the four heroes of that 1939 classic, and if its lack of originality let it down, it related the teamwork and looking out for the other guy (or girl) message that never got old. Music by Henry Jackman (with a touch of Somewhere Over the Rainbow alluded to in there).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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