Over the weekend, I went to see Jumanji at the cheap seats theater with my girlfriend. Despite the fact that the movie was out, I managed to avoid spoilers or any of the hype so my only real expectation going into the movie was that I was probably going to enjoy seeing Jack Black do the most realistic impression of a teenage Instagram-addicted girl any older man has ever done.
I want to officially go on record as saying this is not only true, it was so entirely believable that I forgot that he wasn’t actually a vain teenaged girl whose only pursuit in life up to that point had been more Instagram followers and how to take the perfect selfie. It was uncanny, amazing, and I recommend checking the movie out for this alone. You will not regret it unless you are some kind of awful person who dislikes laughter, hilarity, and anything fun. I think you will like it so much that if you watch it and dislike it (and prove you are not an awful, fun-hating, potentially-a-robot-who-wasn’t-programmed-to-understand-humor person) then I will send you my address so we can duel with sabers at sunset.
There are a lot of other really enjoyable aspects of the movie as well. The update to “modern” times was a lot of fun. Instead of being a board game, the nightmarish magic of Jumanji transforms itself into a video game for some obscure console none of the actually modern protagonists can identify. All of the new players get sucked into the video game and have to beat it in order to escape. The game world is filled with a bunch of wonderful nods to the way video games work, including NPCs with limited dialogue options, weird bits of food that are only ever called “rations,” and a really clever way to show the players how many lives they have left.
Each off the four protagonists falls into the four main high school kid stereotypes off “vapid popular girl,” “popular jock guy,” “Smart unpopular girl,” and “nerdy awkward boy.” Eventually, you learn enough about the characters to realize that they’re not just their stereotypes. The jock isn’t dumb, he just needed help with one of his homework assignments. The nerd isn’t just awkward and scared of everything, he acts confident in the things he does to cover up his insecurities. The popular girl isn’t just vain, she actually puts a lot of work into living the life she wants and has some startling insights into how people think and behave. The unpopular girl isn’t just smart, she is so worried about people not liking her that she pushes them away before they get a chance to make up their own mind. The entire movie is filled with these little moments where the characters break their molds. (Spoilers, sorta) The popular girl gives up one of her lives to save an ally without a moment’s hesitation or consideration. The jock winds up talking the nerd through his confidence issues and shows his wisdom. The nerd faces his general fear off the world and protects the rest of the group. (Spoilers, definitely, though not in the way this sentence makes it seem) The smart girl sacrifices herself to help the group win the game.
The world of the game is fun, the villain is super creepy, and the missing child is so mid-90s it almost hurts. The character stereotypes (the video game characters that the protagonists become) are hilarious. The rock acts like a small frightened boy and the only reason he doesn’t steal the show is because it has been hidden in Jack Black’s back pocket from the instant he opened his mouth to talk like a vapid teenage girl. The NPCs are hilariously only concerned with their little programs, which means that a character can explode five feet from them and they will continue to, once the dust has started to settle, hawk their “rations.”
Every character gets a moment to shine and there’s never a slow moment. Everything is incredibly well-paced and the only time I was pulled out of the story enough to anticipate what would happen next was when they had beaten the game and were going through the end of the game. Though it is a fairly simple movie that is exactly what it seems like it would be, I can’t recommend it enough. It is definitely worth two hours of your time, plus the drive to wherever its showing. Or at least a digital rental once it has been released.