Have you ever left a movie and thought you missed something? The rest of the theater was laughing, they seemed to be enjoying themselves; why didn’t I? This was the predicament which I found myself after seeing ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,’ Dwayne Johnson’s latest co-starring Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan.
It took me a while to figure out the issue with the film, but after some deep thought and ample booze, I’ve come to a conclusion: the best scene in ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ is at the end, after the kids escape the game and they have a conversation with Colin Hanks. This small scene captures the right emotion and gives the film a heart that never appears during the meat of the picture. This moment has the same emotional and nostalgic bent as ‘Goonies,’ ‘Stranger Things,’ even ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming.’ It’s all about the awkwardness of a teenager that everyone can relate to.
What the writers of the film (Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, and Jeff Pinkner) do with ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ is take all the relatability out of the film and insert a screaming Kevin Hart. Johnson is fun and likable, but he doesn’t have the acting skill to convince you that he’s a 16-year-old kid. The director of the film, Jake Kasdan, also plays to his strengths as a comedy director, but in no time the movie transforms into a stand-up routine in the jungle.
Before you hit me over the head with, ‘Matt! It’s a popcorn flick, just enjoy the movie!’ let me give you another paragraph or two to make my case…
The simple set up of the film is fine. How Jumanji goes from a board game to a video game works. What doesn’t work is the actual gameplay. In the world of Jumanji, set up by the original film, the rules are important. With four writers on the project, should one of them maybe watched the original film? I would like to think that writers, director, and actors are trying to create the best possible product every time they work on a project, but sometimes that just isn’t the truth. Sometimes bills have to get paid and your sole motivation is a paycheck. ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ feels like this generations ‘Last Action Hero,’ but with a little less fanfare.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, I’m in the minority, but the Rock can’t cover up bad writing, flimsy CGI, and direction. Hart and Black can make you laugh on street on a street corner, no CGI film needed. With the quality of television on the rise, and more and more options available for your viewing pleasure, is it wrong to want more here?