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Swinging through the jungle

Star-studded cast packs more than fun and games into ‘Jumanji’ reboot 

Kaitlin Schneider
Antelope Staff

Now I know what you’re thinking: another reboot, seriously? Why can’t people just come up with some fresh material when it comes to flicks? 

Those were definitely my cynical thoughts heading into this, and viewing it in theaters was a spur-of-the-moment idea, just because I was bored. That sentiment did not persist throughout the movie, as it has you laughing from the start, and it keeps you laughing until the very end. 

That’s not to say it’s just a comedy with no narrative potential. Far from it, in fact. Even though it was technically released on Dec. 20 of last year, it ended up being a fantastic choice for my first theater-viewed film of 2018. 

The story begins on the beach, way back in 1996, when the original Jumanji gameboard from the 1995 Robin Williams classic is discovered, buried in the sand. 

Alex Vreeke, metalhead and video game aficionado, practically tosses the wooden box aside with a snide comment about no one playing board games anymore. After this insulting remark, he goes back to his video game, thinking nothing of the board for a bit. Until the middle of the night, that is, when he hears loud drums. They seem to emanate from the old box, and when he opens the lid, what he finds is no longer a lame board game, but a video game cartridge, which he immediately decides to play. 

Pan out to the outside of the house where viewers only see a green light in the boy’s window. After that night, Alex is never to be seen again. Or is he?

Fast forward to present time, when four teenagers are sent to detention for different reasons, and their principal tasks them with de-stapling old magazines in a supply room. They chance upon the old video game, and in a “Breakfast Club”-style rebellion, decide to play the game instead of doing what they’re told. 

However, once they have selected their characters, that eerie green light appears yet again, and all four are sucked into the video game, having become their chosen characters in a romp through the jungle—and an eventual encounter with Nick Jonas. With only three lives and the threat of actual death if they fail to save Jumanji from the current blight of evil, really get interesting. Why? Because the star-studded cast that portrays the avatars all bring something different to the table. 

I should also mention that each avatar is astronomically different from the teen stuck inside, which just adds to the hilarity of the ensuing shenanigans. 

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays Dr. Smolder Bravestone, the uber-macho, heavily muscled hero of the game who has no weaknesses. Well, it would be boring if he was just essentially a Mary Sue character, so to make things interesting the teenager who picked this character, Spencer, is actually a scrawny nerd who is 1) afraid of basically everything and 2) allergic to basically everything, including his feelings for his counterpart, Martha. Seeing Johnson act in such a way not only indicates his range as an actor, but provides a hugely entertaining character for audiences.

Martha’s character of choice, Ruby Roundhouse, is portrayed by the wonderful “Doctor Who” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” star, Karen Gillan. Although Martha is an anxious teenager who cannot talk to boys, her time as the dance-fighting, Roundhouse makes her rethink her ways of life. Plus, she even “learns” a few pointers in flirting. 

The third teenager, “Fridge,” chooses Kevin Hart’s hilarious, albeit vertically challenged, Finbar as his avatar. A zoology expert and weapons valet, the football star trapped within gets knocked down a few pegs and learns that being a big man isn’t the only important thing to life, and being bigger doesn’t always mean being better. Oh, and Finbar’s weakness in the game is cake. 

Finally, and I purposefully saved the best for last, is Bethany (Madison Iseman), who decides upon Dr. Shelly Oberon, the cartographer portrayed by none other than Jack Black. That’s right, Black channels his inner teenage “basic” white girl to hone down the most hilarious facet of this film. 

Throw in a few jokes about male physiology, major panic over a lost cell phone, and being zealously devoured by a hippo, and you have a hysterical recipe for disastrously comedic entertainment. 

The storyline is good too, but what really makes this movie is the characters, and the dichotomies presented in each teenager/avatar combo. This wacky film will keep you guffawing well after the credits have rolled, and is sure to be a hit for audiences of all ages. 

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