Theaters: December 2017
Streaming: March 2018
Runtime: 119 minutes
Genre: Action – Adventure – Comedy – Drama – Family – Fantasy
Amazon: 4.1/5 stars
Rotten Tomatoes Critics: 6.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Audience: 4.4/5
Metacritic Metascore: 58/100
Metacritic User Score: 6.7/10
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Written by: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner; (screenplay), Chris Van Allsburg (book)
Music by: Henry Jackman
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale
Film Locations: Hawaii and Georgia, US
Worldwide Box Office: $942,935,000
Four high school kids, serving detention for being high school kids, discover an old Nintendo-like video console in a school store-room, complete with a Jumanji game cassette. They hook it up to a TV set and 4 avatars appear, with the kids naturally choosing the one opposite of their true personality. After the 4th avatar is chosen they are transported into the video game, assuming the bodies of their apotheosis. Very quickly they discover that they can die in this fantasy land of make-believe. To survive and escape they must complete the task of returning a gigantic green jewel to the eye of a rock jaguar statue. Thus begins the slap-dash adventure of evading charging rhinos, hippos, and a crazed motorcycle gang.
The movie is based on the 1981 children’s illustrated book by Chris Van Allsburg of the same name: Jumanji. Preceding this 2017 movie was the well-received 1995 Jumanji movie starring Robin Williams. Allsburg followed up his book with another, similar, illustrated children’s book: Zathura; which was made into the 2005 movie: Zathura starring Tim Robbins. The screenplay for this movie is entirely predictable, all adventure and mild comedy with no real plot twists or surprises. The one and only time I was surprised came very early in the movie when a hippo charged the avatars. After that scene everything played out as expected.
Jake Kasdan, director of the mostly forgettable comedies, Bad Teacher, Sex Tape, along with the tolerable Walk Hard, manages to make this movie blandly humorous and almost interesting. He certainly didn’t take any risks with this family movie with the exception of penis jokes, and he definitely could have given those a rest.
Dwayne Johnson provides the backbone for this movie and turns in a great performance depicting a fearful, nervous 16 year-old. Karen Gillan’s spastic rendition of a come-on was whimsically passable but Sandra Bullock did the spaz part better in the 2000 flick: Miss Congeniality.
This is a fun family movie. It breaks no new ground but it does entertain for a few hours. It’s rumored that Kasdan, the screenplay team of Rosenberg and Pinkner, and the principal actors are all lined up for a sequel. It may work but new writers may have given it better odds.