Hi! It’s Annie!
Back to another movie that I have watched several times throughout quarantine and is always comforting to me. I grew up watching the original ‘Jumanji’ starring Robin Williams, and I couldn’t possibly be able to say how many times I’ve watched that film. But I think there was something completely magical about this remake, even though remakes aren’t necessarily my favorite generally speaking. I feel like this was enough detached from the original content to still feel like a completely creative story of it’s own. But more than that, this movie is funny and wholesome and exactly what I needed to watch right now. There’s so much that’s good about this movie, so I’m just going to jump into it and talk about why this movie is so great.
I just really like this concept a lot. While we saw Alan be sucked into the world of Jumanji in the original film and we knew he lived there for a while, we didn’t really see what it looked like. We just saw things come out of it. Not only does this movie take place inside the world of Jumanji that we never got to see; but the way it ties it into video games by having these avatars live inside the world puts a more creative spin on it. Through this, we see the world of Jumanji through a video game and choosable characters. Dr. Bravestone is a general strong video game protagonist, Ruby Roundhouse is the over sexualized female character, Mouse Finnbar is the sidekick character, Dr. Shelly Oberon is the smart guy, and Seaplane McDonough is the cool, mysterious character. But instead of following these characters, we follow the poor kids who accidentally chose them in the bodies of these avatars. In fact, this is where much of the comedy from the movie comes in. Spencer ends up in the body Dr. Bravestone even though he is a skinny stereotypical “nerd” with low self esteem, Martha, who keeps to herself, ends up being Ruby Roundhouse and is immediately dismayed by the character design, Fridge is Mouse who is much smaller than him and less strong, and Bethany ends up as Dr. Shelly Oberon, a portly scientist, having thought his character was a girl. The most fun in this movie is watching the avatar actors play the teenagers. Especially Jack Black who plays such a convincing teenage girl that it’s almost scary. And then we of course later meet Alex who has been stuck as Seaplane for over twenty years. Really, this new movie wouldn’t have worked or felt nearly as creative without the avatars.
I really have to talk about the way the movie treats young people and teenagers because it’s so different from the way that young people are generally portrayed. Especially in movies like this. While this movie does poke fun at some teenage problems and use them for comedy, it is never meant in a way that pushes any of the characters down. All of their problems are seen as completely valid and are treated as normal things that everyone goes through. In fact, they use some of the issues that most movies would brush off as needed moments for character development. I think that this comes through with no character as much as it does with Bethany. When we are introduced to the character of Bethany she is a typical social media influencer type character. She’s popular and she puts a lot of emphasis on her looks. But the movie never tells the audience that she’s wrong for being that way. Though she does learn to put less emphasis on the way she looks and on popularity, the only other thing that truly changes about her is a newfound love of nature. From the very beginning of the movie, Bethany is shown to have an incredible capacity for compassion. She’s even the character who gives up one of her lives to save Alex. Bethany also is very much a believer in not judging people based on the way they look from the beginning of the film and her flirting skills actually come into very good use. One of my favorite elements of the movie is the relationship between Bethany and Martha, who become friends after they realize that they have a lot more in common than they think. Bethany realizes that she hasn’t looked for friends outside of those that match her popularity and looks while Martha realizes she disliked Bethany because of what she thought Bethany represented, rather than someone she actually was. As someone who was one hundred percent a Martha in high school (and still am sometimes), I thought this movie shed so much light onto why popular people, like Bethany, shouldn’t be disliked on principle. I love this movie because it never shames young people for having young people problems as well as showing that young people can also be incredibly smart and responsible no matter how they’re seen.
When watching the original ‘Jumanji’ film, I never thought that I would enjoy seeing the jungle where Alan was trapped for so many years. He didn’t seem to enjoy it, so why would I want to see it? I though we saw enough of it when the jungle basically overtook the entire downstairs of the house they were playing the game in. But this movie makes the jungle look amazing and almost like a place you would want to visit. Even though you probably really wouldn’t because of all the killer animals. This design for the new jungle even included throwbacks to the original film; such as the place Alan lived when he was stuck in the jungle and the statues that look like the original ‘Jumanji’ game pieces. The forestry is beautiful and almost magical, the waterfalls are gorgeous, and the marketplace reminds me of something straight out of an ‘Indiana Jones’ movie. It feels like a mash up of so many beautiful settings from classic action films and it makes the movie feel all the more like an escape. Which is funny, considering this is the place the characters are trying to escape from.
One of the main aspects of ‘Jumanji’ was always the mystery of the game as well as the terrifying fact that the game could evolve. I think there was really no better way to show the game evolving than having it turn into a video game. It leaves the movie packed full of great classic game references as well as shows the audience exactly how the game can make sure it will continue to be played. Again, I’m not a huge fan of remakes. I feel like a lot of them prevent newer artists and creatives from being heard and putting their work out there because remakes are considered the safer choice to studios. But I do feel like with the nature of the original game, I can see why ‘Jumanji’ would warrant some sort of remake. It’s a game thats main purpose is to shift so that it will be played over and over again. And I’m also really glad that this new version didn’t explore the origins of the game or answered any questions as to what it is or why it wants to be played. I feel like the game is best kept a mystery.
This movie is seriously one of my favorites. I love it more and fall more in love with the characters each time I watch it. I didn’t like the second installation in the franchise as much, but it was still fun. I am, admittedly, a little afraid of what might happen in the third movie considering that one looks like it will take place in real life. That’s been done before and I think that they struck gold with the idea of the avatars, so it may not be the best idea to revisit the series with something that looks too much like a true remake of the original movie. But we’ll see. I want to reserve judgement until I see it just because I love this movie so much. And can I mention here that I was a little bummed when Alex went back to his own time? Oh well, it’s all for the best I guess!
See you across the pond!