ROSEMARY SCHWEITZER | firstname.lastname@example.org
From Robin Williams to “The Rock”
As someone who grew up watching and rewatching “Jumanji”, I was cautiously
optimistic at the thought of a reboot, because in recent years, film and TV have not had a stellar record in the reboot department. Granted, when revamping old favorites, it is impossible to satisfy everyone, but one surefire way keep fans of the original happy is to keep what made the original good while adding a fresh spin.
In the beginning, there was a board game
The original “Jumanji”, released in 1995 and starring the genius that was Robin Williams, introduced audiences to a vague and dangerous world hidden inside of a seemingly innocent board game. However, those drawn in by the pounding of drums soon realized that Jumanji itself is not so harmless. Complete with killer mosquitos, African bats and the looming threat of being sucked into the game itself, “Jumanji” was a thrill ride for the ages. That being said, I have a feeling that a heavy cloud of nostalgia may be influencing my opinions, to a point.
At its core “Jumanji” was about finding your inner strength, learning to trust the people around you and finishing what you start—and yes I might be reaching here, but just go with me for a minute. Assuming I am not over-romanticizing one of my favorite childhood movies, and there really were deeper themes of self-realization, it is time to see how well the 2017 reboot stands up.
Was it lost in translation?
The first point to evaluate would be the plot. The original movie was not too heavy on plot, which was to finish the game. The reboot expands this by turning Jumanji into a video game and giving it a rough story about retrieving a powerful jewel. Giving the game an actual story and setting opens up the possibilities of extended universes and future sequels, though I think perpetuating the “Jumanji” franchise could have “Final Destination”-like effects.
The second point would be the characters. In the original, the relationships between characters start off shaky and become more cemented as they help each other survive. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” followed the same principle, only the characters were all the same age and had a basic knowledge of each other before the game began. Their personalities, while relatively generic and stereotypical for teenagers, were fleshed out well enough, and this made their being trapped in adult bodies rather amusing. The chemistry between actors was fluid and each had their own funny quirks, but by far, the best performance had to be from Jack Black. I’m sure it is not the easiest thing to play a teenage, technology-obsessed girl trapped in an overweight man’s body, but if anyone can do it, high-pitched voice and all, it is Jack Black.
It was also funny to see Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson almost making fun of themselves and the types of characters they would normally play. Most notably when Johnson, as Smolder Bravestone constantly flinches away from danger and makes use of his smolder, or when Hart as Franklin “Mouse” Finbar constantly complains about his short stature.
The delicate reboot balance
My final note for the time being would be the references to the original film. Reboots and sequels walk a fine line between paying tribute, blatantly copying and totally diverging from the source material. The 2016 “Ghostbusters” simply recycled the first film’s plot and added in some new jokes, making it predictable and a little disappointing. The 2016 “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” abandoned the original show’s style and went for explosions over the ninja-like stealth. But “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”, in my personal opinion, managed to walk the line well, paying homage while still keeping it fresh.