It was either this or Darkest Hour as my first movie of 2018. Despite the fact that I figured I’d enjoy Darkest Hour more, something in my brain was still in vacation mode, and I wanted to watch a really dumb, light-hearted film.
And heck, this movie is getting rave reviews! It looks like the dreaded Jumanji soft reboot doesn’t suck guys. It’s Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
Well guys, unfortunately, this movie does suck. It doesn’t suck as much as I was afraid it would, but there were definitely more moments of irritation than their were of entertainment.
The absolute best moments feature Jack Black playing a ditzy teenage girl trapped in a middle-aged man’s body. Those specific moments are downright hysterical. In fact, Jumanji 2 really shows how talented Black is at character acting and comedic timing.
All of the other good moments in the script have to do with the humor of our protagonists’s duality. Dwayne Johnson playing a scared kid trapped in the body of a super buff muscular guy does have its moments. Karen Gillan also does really well as an awkward girl persona inside a stereotypical scantily-clad, video-game heroine. Professional wet blanket Kevin Hart also does alright. He’s basically a bully jock that’s an asshole because he now has a shorty complex.
So basically Kevin Hart plays Kevin Hart.
Nevertheless, the movie works best when they have all of these talented actors portraying the teens that are trapped inside of them.
Everything else about the film is a detractor.
The biggest detractor of all is undoubtedly the script. The script is almost entirely exposition. The dialogue seemed significantly more interested in fulfilling plot points than actually making genuine characters. The film frequently just had their character inorganically spell out the current conflict, their relationship to another character, and sometimes they literally just described their character arc.
Nothing about the script is subtle or intuitive. Because of this, it wasn’t surprising that our four good actors, Jack Black excluded, never did better than alright.
The entire beginning of the film is generic, expositional bullshit until they actually get into the video game. All of the entertainment that can be found happens after that.
The soundtrack was astonishingly lazy and generic.
However, my biggest personal complaint about the movie is how they under-utilize the video game gimmick to a point of absolute obnoxiousness. The fact that they’re in a video game never really translates to the series of events. Sure, they have “lives”, and they make a few witless jokes about NPCs, but aside from that, the film plays more like a generic jungle action film than four teenagers being stuck in a video game.
The reason I bring this up is because I spent the entire film agonizing over all of the missed opportunities. The film would have been significantly more enjoyable if the Jumanji 2 writers were smart enough to mock video game tropes outside of “ooo the sexy female character has less clothing.”
Where’s the cinematography that could mock your stereotypical action camera (you know, instead of bland cinematography that did nothing to improve the film)? Where’s any mentions of boss-fights and exploiting their contrived weaknesses? You could have made jokes about player inventories and how it would actually be impossible to carry fifteen guns with you at all times. You could have made the green stone plot device obnoxiously large only to be absorbed into the character’s inventory as soon as you touched it. You could have made health bars above all the characters, you could have done more with the idea of overly-dramatic “cut scenes”, or leveling-up, or gaining extra lives, or making harder enemies the same enemies but wearing different colored armor.
Unfortunately, whoever wrote and directed this film were likely a bunch of forty-year-olds who had no interest in actually taking advantage of this kind of comedic gold mine (one that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World took full advantage of, and that’s one of the many reasons why it’s an amazing movie).
Now obviously, the film didn’t HAVE to utilize that type of humor. But it would’ve been significantly better if they decided to do that instead of what they went with: a boring, generic, beat-for-beat action movie plot.
And in the end, if you’re not going to utilize dumb video game tropes to your advantage, why even make this movie about being trapped in a video game?
So yeah, if you’re looking for a dumb action movie that requires no brain power to watch, and if sitting through a lot of mediocre material to get a few bits of Jack Black greatness sounds worth it, then see this film. Otherwise, I don’t see why everybody seems to be giving this movie such stellar reviews.