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Film review: Jumanji – Welcome to the Jungle

Film & TV

It’s been 22 years since two children freed Alan Parish from the nightmarish world of Jumanji. Now the magical game is back with a new adventure for the tech-savvy generation.

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Directed by Jake Kasdan, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is an action-packed adventure filled with gaming and social media references, selfies and a high dose of teenage angst. The classic (yet apparently outdated) board game has been replaced with a video game cartridge, and while its 1995 predecessor – which starred the late Robin Williams – saw the jungle animals released from the game into the real world, the action in this film takes place within Jumanji.

When game nerd Spencer (Alex Wolff), super jock Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), loner Martha (Morgan Turner) and queen bee Bethany (Madison Iseman) get detention, they must spend an afternoon cleaning their school’s disused basement. But things take an unexpected turn when Fridge discovers an old video game console which transports the four to Jumanji.

Lost in the perilous jungles of the game and trapped inside the bodies of their chosen avatars, the teens must use their characters’ skills and knowledge to pass the many levels, defeat the bad guys and hopefully return home before its Game Over… for good.

Despite having its own stand-alone storyline, the film pays homage to its predecessor with a handful of subtle references that long-time fans will appreciate.

Dwayne Johnson stars as timid Spencer’s avatar, archaeologist Dr Smoulder Bravestone – a muscled-up adventurer whose skills include “smouldering intensity”; his ridiculously well-built stature clashes hilariously with his performance as a frightened, awkward nerd. Kevin Hart brings his own uniquely high-pitched comedic style to the film as Fridge’s avatar, zoologist Franklin “Moose” Finbar, who is the physical opposite of the athletically built Fridge.

Jack Black does an eerily good job of channelling his inner teenage girl to play Bethany’s avatar Dr Shelly Oberon, and the scene where the image-obsessed Bethany discovers she is now in the body of an overweight, middle-aged man is among the film’s funniest moments. Karen Gillan is a standout as Martha’s avatar, Ruby Roundhouse, a tough-as-nails kung fu expert with a penchant for kicking butt, while Nick Jonas plays the mysterious Alex and Bobby Cannavale completes the cast as creepy hunter Van Pelt.

With each new challenge, the teens must embrace their characters and learn to trust themselves and each other, and while the ensuing moments of self-discovery border on clichéd, it’s likely that many young people will relate to the issues explored.

Stunningly detailed special effects bring the world of Jumanji to life, with video-game-inspired fight sequences complementing the adrenaline-filled action scenes.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is an adventure jam-packed with thrills, spills and a liberal dose of comedy.

This film opens in cinemas on Boxing Day.

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