Imagine if The Breakfast Club and Freaky Friday were crossed with the video game Uncharted, then given the odd daub of Jumanji here and there. Or, don’t strain your synapses and just check out Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
The Robin Williams-infused 1995 take on the 1981 picture book Jumanji was an impossible act to follow, so the makers here wisely went the “loosely based” route.
Even board games have to keep with the times, it seems, as the Jumanji set that we all know and fear morphs itself into a video game cartridge. We see it absorb one kid into its world then, several years later, it’s off to high school…
A jock, a nerd boy, a geek girl and a princess all score detention – but without Simple Minds. This disparate bunch is tasked with cleaning out an old storeroom as their punishment. It’s here that they discover an old console, and some game called – yep, you guessed it. They select their avatars from the remaining four of five and enter the game – quite literally.
It’s now role reversal time, as the jock becomes a weedy zoologist (Kevin Hart), the nerd boy becomes a hulking hunk (Dwayne Johnson), the geek girl essentially becomes Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft (Karen Gillan) and the princess is now curvy genius Professor Shelly Oberon… Who bears a striking resemblance to Jack Black. Like, ermahgerd!
It’s a great setup for a wonderfully big, dumb, funny and likeable action assault on video game tropes, with the original Jumanji rules taking on a whole new reality. NPCs (non-player characters) recite their rote instructions with no deviation (Rhys Darby is fab in his brief appearances), and each of our heroes has but three lives before… perma-death? We were bummed that no trophies popped though.
Mr The Rock gives great smoulder, Hart is his usual manic self, Gillan gives magnificent action queen and Jack Black has all sorts of fun with his thing (heh), while Nick Jonas as the fifth avatar keeps things well grounded.
Looking for adventure? As long as you don’t go into Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle expecting a remake then you’re in for quite a wild time.
In cinemas: December 26, 2017
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Check out our review of the new 4K Ultra HD release of the original Jumanji here.