What is up guys? Turbotastic Asian here with an all new installment of “The Turbotastic Asian Reviews”. You might be wondering why I have not reviewed any films since my “Dr. Strange” review. The honest truth is that though many of the movies I have seen, though I enjoyed watching them, I did not feel any strong emotions about them, good or bad. Such movies include “Alice Through the Looking Glass”, “The BFG”, and (I’m sorry guys) “Beauty and the Beast”. I liked them, but I felt that I could not bring anything new to the table or say anything about them that had not already been said. One reason for this is that two out of three of those films were based on a pre-existing franchise and I felt that they followed their original a bit too closely.
However, recently, I saw a movie that I thought so amazing and well-executed in every way, that I just had to review it before I got too far into the semester! Of course, I am talking about the new “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”. When I saw the trailer for this film, I thought that it was going to be a funny, sort of dorky child-like movie. But when I actually saw it in theaters, I realized that it was ten times more epic than that! I do not care how good or bad Rotten Tomatoes rated it; this is a very very GOOD film!
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is based on the children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg about a children’s game coming to life. There are now three versions of this story in existence, and each one portrays the story differently. In the original book, it’s a zoo-themed game, in the Jonathan Hensleigh 1995 film, it is space-themed, and in this version, it is, as the title implies, jungle-themed. However, this movie is different for two reasons: 1) Unlike the former two that were board-games, this version is a video-game (probably for relevancy), and 2) In the former versions, the games came to life in the players’ world; in this version, the game sucks the players into its own world and the only way out is to win the game (as is typical for this type of plot).
During a humdrum detention period, four high-school students, Spencer, “Fridge”, Martha, and Bethany, find the gaming console and decide to check it out. They choose their avatars and get sucked in. Their mission is to find a gem stolen from the eye of a sacred jaguar statue and return it to said statue located on the top of the mountain overlooking the jungle. Along the way, they find another player named Alex, who they learn had been afraid of losing his last life, and was thus stuck in the game for 20 years. The five of them work together to win the game so that he can return home to his family. All the while, they each find their hidden talents and learn the importance of friendship.
Much like “Dr. Strange”, this plot was simple enough to easily stick in my mind yet engaging. It toys with the idea of role-reversal in that the players in their real lives are nothing like their avatars in the game (more on this later). One thing I like is that there is some risk included. Each of the characters has only three lives and it is implied, though never tested (for obvious reasons), that if a character loses all three lives, they die for real and can never leave the game. Therefore, there is this subconscious dread of one or more of the characters dying near the end of the movie, even though by killing a central character off, that would defeat the purpose of it being a comedy. My only problem with this is that there is a scene where they are eating bread in the market place, but it is never explained whether or not bread refills their lives. Usually in video-games there is some way to refuel.
There is some drama involved as well. Usually, when it comes to drama in comedy shows, it is either a hit or a miss for me. If it is not done properly, it can ruin the whole experience. However, the drama in this film is relatively short-lived and none of the characters says anything too brutal to the other. Plus, there is a nice amount of sweet moments mixed in with the humor and drama. I like all the little instances of the squad using teamwork to solve a problem. I like the scene where Bethany sacrifices one of her lives performing CPR on Alex after he got bitten by a mosquito (one of his weaknesses). I like when Spencer and Martha share their first kiss. Overall, this was a very well-rounded film. You have action, you have comedy, you have suspense, and you have drama that is not too overplayed!
I guess the only other thing I have to scratch my head over is exactly how long the kids were in the game. I mean, it is not like in The Chronicles of Narnia where no matter how long one is in the wardrobe, no time passes at all in the “real world”. Alex had been in the game for 20 years, which amounts to only a few months in game-time. How long does that amount to for the other four, who had only been in the game for the equivalent of a few hours? Also, how do you explain the fact that at the end of the movie, we see Alex married with two children, if he had just gotten home from being stuck in the game. Unless he reunited with a girlfriend he acquired before his disappearance, but even that is rushing things a bit. However, that is just a nitpick and doesn’t really hurt the overall plot, so I won’t count against it.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but if the characters in a movie/show are relatable to any audience member and does not pander to any specific group, they are automatically good characters (at least in the making). Yes, you could say that the characters of Spencer, Fridge, Martha, and Bethany are pandering to the high school-age audience, but they still have their unique characteristics and quirks. Spencer is the gamer-nerd who’s afraid of pretty much everything about the outside world and Fridge is the secretly insecure school jock and they both get detention because Fridge made Spencer write his history paper for him. Martha is the shy yet opinionated girl who makes a brutally honest speech to the gym teacher about being in school to learn rather than have fun, which sends her to detention. As for Bethany, she is the girly-girl/queen bee who pretty much idolizes her phone. You can guess what she was in detention for.
The hilariously ironic part about the teens’ avatars in Jumanji is that the avatars are played by completely different actors than the actors for the teens in their non-Jumanji lives. And the actors who play their avatars are big name Hollywood stars (including Alex who is played by none other than Nick Jonas himself). Spencer’s avatar is Dr. Smolder Bravestone, played by Dwane Johnson, AKA “The Rock” (quite a stretch from the dorky video-game nerd with the overprotective mom). Dr. Bravestone is the brave and handsome leader of the four. Fridge’s avatar is “Moose” Finbar (played by Kevin Hart), Dr. Bravestone’s wimpy, annoying sidekick with a laundry list of weaknesses (including cake, which makes him explode for some reason). However, Finbar is a zoologist, which in itself gives him some moments of greatness. Shy and socially awkward Martha turns into Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), an expert in dance fighting. Some of the most epic scenes in the movie are just her beating up their pursuers to the song “Baby I Love Your Way”. Last but by no means least, Bethany is initially horrified to find that not only had she left her phone in the real world, but she is now Professor Shelley Oberon, the navigator of the group. I’m not going to go into too much detail about this one, other than don’t let the name “Shelley” Oberon fool you.
Throughout the game, the four of them learn and grow into their new identities. Spencer learns to be strong and courageous; Fridge learns to humble himself and be a new kind of team player; Martha learns to loosen up and have more fun; and Bethany learns that there is more to life than selfies and Instagram and not to be afraid to get down and dirty.
Humor: 5/5 (At least the first time around)
I have already covered the humor in this movie a bit; I don’t think there is much more to say about it. Other than this is one of those movies that is definitely better the first time you watch it. I rewatched it a week and a half after I saw it for the first time, and for some reason, it just did not do it for me like it did the first time around. One reason I think this is is that this is one of those movies that just has such a vast amount of unexpected twists and jokes and even some shock value that just isn’t there the second time, because I’ve already seen it and thus already know what to expect. This is also one of the reasons I have not gone out of my way to watch Mall Cop again, despite upholding and glorifying it on my blog. The first time though though, you are hanging on at the edge of your seat either in suspense or doubled over laughing. Overall, the humor in this film, as well as the other aspects, is amazing and well done; just don’t watch it a dozen times in a row. Actually, this is one of those movies that would be fun to drag in someone else to watch it who hasn’t seen it before. Then it is not so much rewatching the movie as it is watching the reaction of the other person who gets to watch it for the first time.
Even though this movie might not be as special upon rewatch, I am still going to give it a full 10/10 review! The quality and quantity of the good aspects far outweigh the bad and the message is both familiar and presented in a very unique way (Take that, Zootopia!). Lastly, I could be wrong, but if you are a gamer or know one, you might especially relate to and enjoy this movie. Definitely a winner for me!
This is the Turbotastic Asian, and I’m signing out!