Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle ruins the legacy of the original film



120 minutes/Opens tomorrow/2.5 stars

The story: Four teenagers discover an old video game and suddenly find themselves sucked into the jungle world of the game when they start playing. They also appear as the game's avatars - explorer Dr Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), zoologist Finbar (Kevin Hart), professor Sheldon (Jack Black) and assassin Ruby (Karen Gillan).

The original Jumanji (1995) starring Robin Williams was a source of great fear and wonder for so many kids growing up in the 1990s.

The animal stampedes and flesh-eating plant attacks in the film, brought to life through computer-generated imagery considered revolutionary at the time, had all felt terrifyingly real.

Jumanji, the name of the cursed game that brought on the chaos in the story, was whispered about in school hallways.

This so-called reboot casts all of that aside only to replace it with slapstick gags and cheap laughs. The link between this and the original is tenuous at best, as it only borrows certain elements such as the name and the recognisable drum beats in the background.

The scary animals are still here, mind you - there are hippos, rhinos and jaguars, and they all look more true-to-life than ever, thanks to advanced computer graphics.

But they are only included as minor obstacles in the background since the central characters are often too busy squabbling among themselves to notice anything going on around them.

 Welcome To The Jungle stars (from left) Nick Jonas, Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black and Kevin Hart.
Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle stars (from left) Nick Jonas, Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black and Kevin Hart. PHOTO: SONY PICTURES

It is a good thing that the leads are at least likable enough and their chemistry is apparent.

Johnson and Hart, in particular, who have worked together before in the crime comedy Central Intelligence (2016), have so much fun with their wisecracks and take-downs of each other that some of it must have been improvised.

They are also cool enough to laugh at themselves all the time - Johnson at his unbelievably big muscles and cheesy smouldering intensity, and Hart at his tiny stature and lack of physical sexiness.

In a smaller, original comedy, their corny jokes and physical humour may have worked just fine. But knowing that this is supposed to be a Jumanji reboot, one can think of only how it ruins the legacy of the original.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2017, with the headline 'Reboot is one big joke'. Print Edition | Subscribe