★★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki
I'll just come right out & say it: I've never seen Jumanji. I know, I'm 16 & I should've seen it by now. People are shocked that I haven't seen it, but I've never been interested in it.
So I wasn't interested at first in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. The trailer looked formulaic like most action film trailers. But then I heard some really good reviews about the film, & I decided to see it.
I was definitely surprised; I wasn't expecting to be this fun & great. The film follows 4 high school students: Spencer Gilpin (played by Nat Wolff), Anthony "Fridge" Johnson (played by Ser'Darius Blain), Bethany Walker (played by Madison Iseman), & Martha Kaply (played by Morgan Turner). They are all in detention: Spencer wrote Anthony's English paper for him, Bethany was FaceTiming in class, & Morgan disrespected her P.E. teacher & wondering why P.E. was important to education.
Their task in detention is to clean out an old closet. Spencer finds an old video game system with the video game Jumanji in it. It is a five-player video game, but one player, Jefferson "Seaplane" McDonough (played by Nick Jonas), is already selected. Spencer convinces everyone to play it. Spencer selects Dr. Smolder Bravestone (played by Dwayne Johnson), Fridge selects Franklin "Mouse" Finbar (played by Kevin Hart), Martha selects Ruby Roundhouse (played by Karen Gillan), & Bethany selects Professor Shelly Oberon (played by Jack Black).
They are then transported into the world of the game, with the students becoming their selected characters, with Bethany being dismayed she unknowingly picked a male character. Their task is to return the Jaguar's Eye to a jaguar statue & yell out "Jumanji!" They must get it from big game hunter Van Pelt (played by Bobby Cannavale). Besides finding the jewel & beating the game, they must learn how to better themselves.
The cast is hilarious. Johnson, Hart & Black are both hilarious as always. Gillan finally gets to show off her comedic chops. Jonas actually shows he doesn't suck as a comedic actor. And Cannavale is hilariously over-the-top.
Jake Kasdan's direction is excellent. Kasdan shows he can handle a big-budget film, & shows he actually can direct well again, after the dud that was 2014's Sex Tape.
The screenplay by Jake Kasdan, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg & Jeff Pinker is amazing. The jokes in the script always land, & the dialogue isn't formulaic.
The editing by Mark Helfrich & Steve Edwards is ok. It has way too many cuts than it should, like most action films, but it makes sure the film gets to where it's supposed to go.
And the visual effects are amazing. The CGI looks great, & the effects are so immersive.
This is the biggest surprise of the year. While it isn't perfect, it manages to be way better than it has any right to be.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Wednesday, December 27, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 119 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for adventure action, suggestive content & some language.