FILM UNFILTERED - ‘Jumanji’ remake is worth seeing

FILM UNFILTERED - ‘Jumanji’ remake is worth seeing


Generally, I am not a big supporter of older films getting redone or rebooted. Regrettably though, with film studios losing revenue to Netflix and other streaming services, they have to dig deep into their troves of intellectual property nowadays to see what they can put a new spin on.

“Jumanji” was a pretty cute film back in 1995 starring the very funny Robin Williams. Now though, “cute” doesn’t always cut it as studios want to give audiences bigger, better and crazier. So, they’ve decided to dust off that just over 20-year-old film and spruce it up as “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” Surprisingly, this is a do-over I can support and recommend.

This time around, there’s a few more characters involved but the premise is still the same. We are introduced to four high-schoolers, each very different from each other. There’s Spencer (Alex Wolff) who is a timid, video game-playing kid who is still trying to stay friends with his middle school friend “Fridge” (Ser’Darius Blain) who is on the football team. There’s also Bethany (Madison Iseman) who is the snobby, self-obsessed popular girl, and Martha (Morgan Turner) who is not athletic, but super smart.

Through a series of different events, they all find themselves in detention together, much like “The Breakfast Club.” The principal takes them to the basement of the high school and sets them to the task of pulling staples out of magazines bound for recycling. Fridge starts snooping around and finds an old school video game system. Intrigued, Spencer plugs it in and turns it on. Figuring anything is better than the manual labor they were assigned to do, they all choose their players. But the game fritzes out and digitally zaps them into the game.

When they come out the other side, they are radically transformed into very different bodies. Spencer gets the physique of Dwayne Johnson, Fridge gets minimized into the diminutive Kevin Hart, Bethany finds herself in the less than desirable Jack Black, while the shy and athletically challenged Martha inherits the tall, gorgeous and skimpily clothed Karen Gillan.

They are all, of course, thrust into immediate danger, all the while having to overcome their own personal idiosyncrasies, adjusting to their new bodies, and learning to work together. They also realize that like a video game, they only have three lives at their disposal. Some of their “deaths” are pretty funny.

This is a wildly fun movie from beginning to end.

I’m also one of those people who often finds that there’s too much Dwayne Johnson and that his choices sometimes seem too similar to previous roles. But he actually deviates slightly here and is a little less heroic. Setting him among a well-rounded and equally talented cast is a plus. With Jack Black and Kevin Hart on board, they really get to have some funny lines all around.

Johnson and Hart have teamed up a few times now, but their dynamic here is great. Karen Gillan, as well as all the main cast, get to stretch their ability because they are playing teenagers in adult bodies trying to get past the awkwardness of those years under very dire circumstances.

Rated PG13

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” stars, from left, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black and Dwayne Johnson.