Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Year: 2017
Production Co: Matt Tolmach Productions
Studio: Columbia
Director: Jake Kasdan
Writer: Chris McKenna/Erik Sommers/Scott Rosenberg/Jeff Pinkner
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Bobby Cannavale, Nick Jonas, Alex Wolff, Ser'Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner, Missi Pyle

Why would anyone remake an adventure movies from the 1990s that was fine but far from earth-shattering? Hollywood's most effervescent salesman Dwayne Johnson, that's who.

Not that he came up with the entire plan, but you get the sense few Hollywood stars more fully understand the intent of the movie they're appearing in and support that intent fully (that sounds self-evident, but if you listen to a lot of actors being interviewed it's amazing how many of them couldn't care less about how their film plays, travels or succeeds – plenty of them don't even watch the films they work on).

But it was an easy sell in hindsight, and one the producers and studio will be very happy they took on after its box office haul. Where the original idea had the characters play a boardgame that brought the swashbuckling adventure to life in the real world until they finished it, what better nostalgic medium is there for today's social media and mobile obsessed generation to get trapped in than a 90s era, 16-bit console game, Matrix-style?

Throw in a bunch of performers who are already good at bouncing off each other (or easily accepting new names into their fold), cobble together a generic chase movie/adventure/heroes journey script and slap it on screens.

If that sounds cynical, it's because it's one of those movies tailor made to please an audience and fill box office coffers, a studio swindle that works despite itself and which you feel grudging respect for because even though it's a terrible movie, there's enough charm in the banter between the leads and enough laughs to carry you along with it.

When nerd Spencer (Alex Wolff), jock Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain) – who pays Spencer to do his homework – socially awkward and sardonic but good natured Martha (Morgan Turner) and selfie-obsessed Bethany (Madison Iseman) all get Saturday detention cleaning out an old school storeroom, they come across the titular video game.

When they all press 'play', they find themselves inside it as the characters they've chosen – Spencer is now the musclebound Johnson, Fridge is the squeaky, fast-talking Kevin Hart, Martha is the hot but inapproprately dressed redhead Karen Gillan and Bethany, who chose a character named Shelly without realising it was short for Sheldon, is the bespectacled Jack Black (the 'old fat guy' line from the trailer).

A huge part of the success of the film can be found in the comment above about Martha, where one of her first reactions is about her completely unworkable garb. Director Jake Kasdan gets to have it both ways by having a hot heroine in skimpy clothes while admitting how stupid it is (and making complete narrative sense) because a female adventurer in a 90s videogame would indeed look like she was on the way to a Vegas pool party.

But the film's success can be found in how every aspect (from the look on Johnson's face when he discovers one of his in-game strengths is 'smouldering intensity' to Martha's attempt at flirting with two armed guards) is about the film, the characters and the actors being so willing to poke fun at themselves for gags.

It gives the script the means to reach way into the audience, reminding us we're dealing with self-conscious teenagers rather than the chiselled, genius or voluptuous charaters they're playing, giving us the opportunity to laugh right along with them as they puts pins in various pomposities.

The McGuffin that drives the whole thing forward is a jewel that has to be put back in place to lift a curse over the land, Bobby Cannavale collecting his cheque as the villain who can control animals, but there's enough mythology around it (like the number of lives tattooed on their arms, etc) to keep the plot afloat.

As a cineaste it's easy to be snooty and dismissive of everything about it, but while you're sitting there laughing along with everyone else you have to admit to yourself that it works.

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