I strolled the G and PG aisles of the local Blockbuster as a young girl, probably in kindergarten or first grade, relishing that it was my turn to pick out the movie for the weekend.
Of course, I had to choose something the whole family would enjoy, and I was in the mood for something I hadn't seen before. Knowing that all of us had enjoyed Hook and Aladdin, I recognized Robin Williams on the cover and decided Jumanji seemed interesting enough to rent.
Little did I know that this would be one of the movies that would take over my childhood, as I watched it again and again and again. I'm sure I'm not the only kid who did this, but my sister and I even attempted to make our own Jumanji board. We were really into it.
So, naturally, when I heard that they were "remaking" Jumanji, I had my initial objections. I was dead-set on the mindset that they would ruin something so near and dear to my heart. Especially, when I found out they were making it into a video game, I thought that it was a desperate attempt to appeal to a larger audience without maintaining the heart of the source material. However, my curiosity pulled me into the movie theater and I plopped down into my seat, expecting to be disappointed.
I won't lie. I maintained this mindset for most of the beginning of the movie. Yet, little by little, it grew on me, to the point where I was having a very fun time watching a movie I thought I would hate.
I think that I should probably issue a SPOILER WARNING at this point. I won't be giving a full rundown of the plot, but I will be discussing elements that I thought made the movie work.
So, if you want to be completely surprised, with no prior knowledge of the movie whatsoever, you should probably leave this article now.
This article is better if you've already seen the movie, and are interested in some theories I have after watching it. I'll probably have to rewatch it again once it leaves theaters to analyze it more closely because I didn't take notes or anything, but here's what I came up with after just one viewing.
Firstly, I think it's important to mention that they are not remaking Jumanji. The movie actually picks up very soon after it left off, in 1996 Brantford, New Hampshire. They are merely extending the original storyline with a more modern plot.
Something I'd like to point out that I haven't heard mentioned yet: many people are saying that there's an inconsistency between the first movie and the second. At the end of the first movie, the game washes up on a beach, and two girls walk across the beach speaking French, so, naturally, people think the game went across the ocean into France.
Yet, at the beginning of Welcome to the Jungle, we see a man from Brantford, NH picks up Jumanji on what appears to be the same beach. I think there are three likely explanations for this.
1. In the first movie, the game resets itself in 1969. Even though Alan and Sarah throw the game into the water, it could have been played by many people, and washed up on many beaches, in the span of over 20 years.
2. Consider the location. New Hampshire is an enormous ocean away from France. But, it is actually rather close to another French-speaking part of the world: Eastern Canada. If you think about it, it's much more likely that the game drifted north to a part of Quebec.
Also, many parts of Maine also speak French. The game didn't even necessarily have to leave the United States. With this explanation, we can assume some French-speaking North Americans played the game, then tried to cast it away again, where it ended right back up in the fictional town of Brantford, New Hampshire in 1996.
3. The game stayed in Brantford this whole time, and for over 20 years, it was drifting around in the waters of Brantford's beach. In the mid-1990s, it washed up on shore, where two French-speaking tourists just happen to pass it, but not pick it up. The man who does pick it up, however, is Alex Vreeke's dad. He is the first person to touch it in over 26 years.
Before I go on with my other theories and connections, I think it is important that we are operating under the belief that the world of Jumanji takes place in a pocket universe. So, even though all evidence of the game that ended in 1995 with the first movie is erased from the real world, according to the world of Jumanji, it actually happened.
We can see evidence of this in how Alex's avatar is living in the same jungle Alan Parrish lived in, as Alan left an "Alan Parrish was here" message on the house that he built, as we can see in the second movie.
Yet, I think the entire addition of including Alan Parrish in the jungle world is exceedingly interesting. Like I said, all evidence that Alan lived in the jungle of Jumanji is erased from the real world, but since the beginning of the new movie takes place in 1996, that is only one year after Alan has left the jungle, which is why the jungle shelter he built seems to be in good condition.
Imagine if Judy and Peter had never discovered the game, and the first person to play it after Alan was Alex, in video-game form. Alex would encounter an adult Alan Parrish in the jungle. However, this didn't happen, so it's not too important to dwell upon.
I feel like Welcome to the Jungle did a pretty okay job with how the board game transformed into a video game. I don't think there's any explanation that makes a ton of sense. But, we can see from the first movie that the game can sense when children around by its beating of the drums, and it obviously has supernatural powers if it can provide a portal to another universe, so I guess the magical transformation into a video game works just fine.
The two plots are also pretty similar: boy begins to play the game and gets stuck inside of it, over 20 years later, some unknowing kids also play the game, they reunite with the first boy to finish the game so everything goes back to the way it was
The medium of a video game, especially a 90s video game, also provided some interesting "rules of the world." Most other review and theory mediums are talking about how certain video game tropes are prevalent throughout the movie: NPCs repeating the same phrase to you if you try to talk to them more than once, cutscenes, special skills of certain characters, and the "3 lives rule," but I would like to touch on a more sociocultural aspect of many video games, especially older ones, and how Jumanji 2 used it expertly: The Smurfette Principle.
Just like Smurfette is the only female in an entire population of male Smurfs, Ruby Roundhouse is the only female avatar among the five avatars. (Look at old video games, comic books, and even TV shows/movies--like Mario, the original Mortal Kombat, Justice League, Fantastic Four--you will see the Smurfette principle EVERYWHERE)
Everyone is talking about how hilarious Jack Black is in the role of Bethany, and I have to agree---I think he stole the show---but it is due to the Smurfette principle that this was possible.
Going off that, it has been a long time since I've been thoroughly entertained in the movie theatre. Yes, this was an action film, but it wasn't dark like most action films are. There's definite comedy in how the avatars are so different from the people playing as them, but it never comes off as too forced. In fact, I thought that each of the avatar actors played their characters very well. I also liked how the two girls actually connected and bonded as their avatars... it has been a long time since the popular girl and the nerdy girl were actually friends.
That's the other video-game aspect that makes the movie work so well---we are connecting to real people as the avatars, not the avatars themselves. The high schoolers who inhibit the avatars might be annoying, but they are real and believable. Most video game adaptations don't work, and one of the many reasons for this is that the avatars of the game are difficult to relate to. Welcome to the Jungle solves this issue well.
Going back to the 1995 movie, in my opinion, of all the jungle elements to come out of the game, none were as scary as Van Pelt, as he was the only thinking being, a human to come out of the game. It makes sense that the actor who played the 1995 Van Pelt also played Alan's father, as Van Pelt is a more extreme version of everything Alan fears about his father.
This is one of the places where I think Welcome to the Jungle falls short. Yes, it is nice that they give a nod to the 1995 Jumanji by using the same name for the human villain, but none of the characters have any real connection to the 2017 Van Pelt. He is a generic villain with generic motives who isn't anything more than "the bad guy" to the characters.
I haven't been able to talk much about the comedy, but needless to say, the whole theater was laughing for most of the movie. Yes, the movie is rated PG-13, but I think it is appropriate for many kids. The rating is only due to some mild language and some sexuality---much of the theatre was filled with children regardless. I think that it's a great family movie that doesn't take itself too seriously and just wants to give you a good time.
Does it have the heart and meaning of the first movie? Of course not; it doesn't come close. There also isn't as much danger or tension, because the avatars each have three lives. But it is full of light-hearted humor, and Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan have wonderful chemistry. Also, Nick Jonas is just so charming, as well. It is also oddly inspiring, allowing people to realize a bit more of their own potential. I think it was well-cast and well-put together, and is the kind of movie I would have been obsessed with as a child, and still enjoy as a young adult.
Basically, if you're on the fence about seeing it, I say to go see it. It is truly A way to leave your world behind.