Friday, April 27, 2018

Jumanji – Welcome to the Jungle

We had a very enjoyable family movie night watching Jumanji – Welcome to the Jungle. Full of laughs and adventure, everyone enjoyed it, as evidenced by Miss 10.5 and Miss 13 watching it two more times in consecutive days.

Four teens end up in detention: Spencer (nerdy, over-cautious geek) has been caught submitting papers for Fridge, his old childhood friend who needs to keep up his grades to keep his place on the football team. Martha (intellectual but socially awkward) and Bethany (self-obsessed and always connected to her phone) have both managed to insult teachers. I felt there were echoes of The Breakfast Club at this point, especially with the teacher’s comment that they need to “Think about who you are and want to be. You get one life, decide how you spend it. There is no better place for self-reflection than detention.”

They find an old video game and end up dragged into the game as the players they selected. Now Spencer is strong, muscly and perfects the smouldering look as Dr Smoulder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson). Spencer is in a constant state of amazement at what his strong body can now do, especially as the game informs him he has no weaknesses. Fringe is his side-kick Moose Finbar, delegated to carrying Bravestone’s bag. Martha has become Ruby Roundhouse, action fighter and all round cool girl. Bethany has transformed into Prof Shelley (Sheldon) Oberon, played by Jack Black

Like all good quest type video games, they have a job to finish before they can leave the game. They each have three lives, and no-one is quite certain what will happen when their lives in the game are used up. As they work their way through the increasingly harder game levels, they come up against various enemies trying to prevent them succeeding. They also discover another player, who it appears has been in the game for some time. It reflects the reality of some video games well – there are NPC (non-player characters) who explain things and how to do them, and everything is a little unrealistic. Our kids connected well to these elements having played numerous quest video games themselves.

Much of the humour is found in the characters having vastly different bodies than in real life. Bravestone can do anything and does it well. One of Ruby Roundhouse’s strengths is dance fighting, providing some very funny scenes of her trying to flirt her way out of a problem, with no knowledge how, but ending up beating all the men up. Oberon of course is an older larger man, and much of the crasser toilet level humour is about Bethany having a man’s body and figuring out what to do with it. There is some low-level swearing, a little bit of alcohol and some action level violence.

There is also a bit of self-reflection (as promised by the teacher handing out the detention). The characters think about who they are, and how they present themselves. They are challenged to see each can cope with things very differently from their reality, and they learn from it. Bethany comments after a while in the game “since I lost my phone, all my other senses are heightened”. When confronted with having only one life left, Spencer says “It’s easy to brave when you have lives to spare, not when you only have one life”, to which one of them echoes the teacher’s words: “We all have only one life, it depends show you live it. Who do you want to be?”

A fun, enjoyable movie that also just might make older kids think about who they think they are, and what they could be.

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