PG-13. Yeah, we let our six-year-old pick a PG-13 movie that no one in the family had seen. It's odd picking PG-13 stuff. It can be all over the place. It's funny. He's the one who gets scared at everything. But because this movie had to do with video games, he suddenly got super cool with the whole thing. We had to pay to rent this one. He liked it so much, we had to pay to get the next one. "Um...", you might be thinking, "aren't you the parent." Shut up. There's language, scary stuff, and genital jokes. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Jake Kasdan
I hate blog entries where I have to remind myself of how much of a snob I am. I don't know what it was about these trailers that made me not want to see the movie. Part of it had to be how overadvertised it was. I mean, this trailer was attached to everything. I couldn't get away from Jumanji no matter what I did. If I have to be even more self-critical, I also knew that this fundamentally wasn't MY Jumanji. That's a thing that I've talked about for a lot of films, divorcing yourself from your nostalgia. But I'm part of the problem as well. When people kept telling me that this movie was pretty good, I really refused to believe them. It seemed like it was people who weren't exactly harboring the same tastes that I did telling me that this movie was great.
Okay. It was pretty great.
My son's insistence on watching this movie got me kind of excited about it. When he's excited about something, it really breaks down a lot of my walls. Yeah, I knew we were feeding the video game beast. His obsession with video games is pretty palpable. He doesn't play as much as he talks about them. But that might give me an insight into the role of entertainment. Jumanji was initially a book. My kids didn't know it was a children's book. The weird thing is, I am certain that we owned it at one point or another. It might have been in my oldest daughter's collection when she was really young. She went through this phase of drawing in books and eating books that things had to get tossed. I imagine that was the final fate of our copy of the children's book. I should replace it. I loved that book when I was a kid. But I'm sure that there were probably naysayers about the book being adapted into a film when I was a kid. After all, look at how contained the original book was. It was like the edgier Cat in the Hat. (And I mean the book of that. The movie, I hear, is a travesty.) The book had these kids play a board game that allowed jungle animals destroy their house. By the end of the book, everything was fine and back in place. Contrast that with the original film with Robin Williams. In the movie, the story spans over generations. The entire city is engulfed in chaos. Eventually, everything is put right, but after a fair amount of destruction occurs.
My knee-jerk reaction to Welcome to the Jungle stemmed out of the idea that Jumanji had to be one thing. I rolled my eyes at the video game element and never let it get past that. I'm not saying that Jumanji shouldn't be a board game. The movie even goes as far as to stress that this is a sequel to the original movie. The board game exists. It just changed to match civilization as it is today. Really, the movie calls me out on my stubbornness and reminds me that things change and adapt. And it's not like the original Jumanji was the pillar of class. We may have put it on a pedestal because of the involvement of the late, great Robin Williams. But Welcome to the Jungle both tips the hat to the things that came before and then go ever further by being its own thing. The smartest thing that this movie could have done was to decide to be its own thing. There's nothing beholden to the previous movie here. The way that the movie defines itself to something closer to a reboot probably helps the movie tell jokes. There's not exactly a ton of nostalgia for the original Jumanji. It wasn't a franchise. It was just a movie that a lot of people probably remember from their childhoods. Unless I'm missing flyers for Jumanjicon (it's a soft "i"), this is just something people kind of like. That's great.
This movie has to be an actor's dream. Playing against type is positively a brilliant element that everyone involved has to embrace. The entire joke is playing against type. I'm going to talk about this a lot more when I write about The Next Level. But the concept of confidence is something that is addressed here pretty well. I mean, kids' movies are meant to be morality plays, so I'm not exactly adding this as a novel concept. But every character approaches confidence in a unique way. Spencer, as the protagonist of the piece, has no identity shy of what he can provide for others. If the Rock / Dr. Smolder Bravestone represents anything, it has Spencer's identity for providing everything, but he ultimately doesn't need the approval of his peers. It's a really interesting connection. Spencer, academically, is the most talented of the group. However, he only gains confidence when he looks like he is valuable. When he's giving Fridge answers, he defines his friendship by his usefulness. Yet, he never needs that confidence when he's in someone else's body. Bethany's confidence is undeserved, yet it doesn't ultimately matter what body she's in to have that attitude come through. Martha is kind of the parallel to Spencer, but she's less morally culpable than Spencer. She defends herself when needed in the real world. Really, having Karen Gillan for a body is just a confidence booster. Then there's Fridge, the dangers of being overconfident. Yeah, I just explained a really basic moral premise for a movie that isn't hiding it. But it works, regardless in the story. I also give the movie points for not really backtracking a lot of these life lessons, shy of Spencer who almost might be the villain of part 2.
Regardless, I'm a punk who should just enjoy movies in the way that I claim to enjoy movies. I mean, I had the same chip on my shoulder when it came to The Fast and the Furious franchise. Admittedly, I went from disliking those movies to kind of liking them. Honestly, I could really go for another entry in the franchise, which seems like a given at this scenario.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.