Review: 'Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle' tests your patience with inane characters and gaping plot holes

Marcus Goh
PHOTO: Sony Pictures Releasing

Why does “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” start in the most boring way possible?

You can skip the first 25 minutes of the film, which set up a premise that doesn’t matter; and the last 15 minutes of the film, which resolve character-based storylines you don’t care about. This action-adventure fantasy sequel to 1995’s “Jumanji” sees a new group of children trapped in the titular game, which has inexplicably become a retro video game. When they appear in the game, they take on the forms of their in-game characters.

The in-game characters are the actors on the film’s poster, and the ones that you came to watch. Unfortunately, they appear only about one fifth of the way into the film and disappear for the last part, so you’re really only watching 80 minutes of what the film promises you. The first impression this gives is that the film could not afford the expensive cast for the full 119 minutes, so they had to find meaningless ways to fill up the rest of its running time.

PHOTO: Sony Pictures Releasing

The problem is that Jack Black and Kevin Hart are as one-note, over-the-top, and grating as in virtually every other role they’ve ever taken on. Kevin Hart can’t stop screaming and Jack Black puts on what he thinks is a funny impression of a vapid teenage girl. Thankfully, Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan put on fairly convincing performances that assure you that they are the same characters as the teenagers you saw in the intro, something that Kevin Hart and Jack Black are incapable of doing in the self-absorbed, nonsensical performances that they consider to be acting.

When half the main characters are unlikeable, attention-seeking imbeciles, it’s difficult to empathise with them. You don’t care about their well-being, so you can’t root for them to win. That’s one of the root problems of “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” — the sheer level of vexation that the characters bring to you.

For some, though, perhaps the child-friendly plot and fun action sequences make up for a lack of acting chops.

If so, fair warning: there is a significantly long scene full of penis jokes that is in bad taste, awfully written, and unfunny. It repeats these penis jokes later. This is in a PG rated film, by the way.

The plot is a nonsensical mess riddled with gaping holes. The characters make many leaps of logic, plenty of dumb decisions, and intentionally endanger their chances of success even after being told what the consequences of their actions are. If that’s not bad enough, plot developments are telegraphed so transparently that there’s no surprise about what is going to happen next.

The supposedly fun fantasy action sequences are derivative and boring. For a film that’s supposed to be an imaginative adventure, it has nothing that even remotely engages you. It’s just a series of dull, predictable scenes stitched together for the sake of making a movie.

PHOTO: Sony Pictures Releasing

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” has little cinematic merit. If you love watching Jack Black and Kevin Hart prancing around uncontrolled, doing stupid things in the most self-indulgent ways possible, then this is the film for you. Otherwise, stay away, and keep the kids far away from it too.

Should you watch this if it’s free? No.

Should you watch it at all? If you’re a hardcore fan of Kevin Hart and Jack Black.

Score: 1.6/5

Secret ending? An audio one.

Running time: 119 minutes (~2 hours)

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is an American action adventure film that’s a sequel to 1995’s “Jumanji”.

It is directed and written by Jake Kasdan with additional writing credits for Chris McKenna, and additional screenplay credits for Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, and Jeff Pinkner. It stars Dwayne Johnson (Dr Smoulder Bravestone), Jack Black (Professor Shelly Oberon), Karen Gillan (Ruby Roundhouse), Kevin Hart (Franklin Finbar), Nick Jonas (Seaplane McDonough), Bobby Cannavale (Russel Van Pelt), Alex Wolff (Spencer Gilpin), Madison Iseman (Bethany Walker), Ser’Darius Blain (Fridge Johnson), and Morgan Turner (Martha Kaply). It is rated PG, despite the inclusion of several obvious penis jokes.

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” opens in cinemas:
– 21 December, 2017 (Singapore)
– 21 December, 2017 (Malaysia)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter, having written for “Lion Mums”, “Crimewatch”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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