Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – The Most Fun You Will Have This Year (Review)

Jumanji-Welcome-to-the-Jungle-cast

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a reimagining of the 1995 film starring Robin Williams, Kirsten Dunst and Jonathan Hyde. Jake Kasdan (Sex Tape, Bad Teacher), gives us an updated version of the Chris Van Allsburg short story. This time around the film is populated by Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Dwayne Johnson and Nick Jonas. The move to base the whole thing on a video game world results in perhaps the most fun you will have this year.

The movie may not be Shakespeare and its message may just be the most simplistic one offered up in 2017, but, damn it, this is gut bustlingly fun. The audience laughs out loud with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle not at it.

Reworking the 1995 version is not a hit or miss prospect, nor is it rocket science. The opening sequence explains quite neatly how the “evil” game transforms itself from a passé board game into a “state of the art” 1996 video game. In the beginning, the plot may feel a tad like a millennials  “The Breakfast Club” (there is even a red-head female to round out the group) but the sitting, in an old junk room at the local high school takes us right out of that motif immediately.

Taking a note from Stay Alive, the film transports the small quartet of teens into the video world of Jumanji and they must survive the game, save the jungle world and then shout the name in order to go home. Like the first film, there is a character who was sucked into the world 20 years previously (Nick Jonas as Alex Freeke – whose dad is played by the brilliant Tim Matheson).

The cast all knock this one out of the comedic park. Johnson, with his “smoldering” and wishy-washy bravery, Jack Black as the teen girl in a middle aged man’s body,  Hart as the “little big-man” and Gillan as the smart wall-flower in the Lara Croft body each bring more than enough to the table to make this fun-filled action romp seem more believable than it has any right to be.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle does not go out of its way to bludgeon the audience with its video game premise. It is, obviously, aimed at the “gamer” in the theatre. The character’s mention the NPC (video-game speak for “non player character) and in this case there are several. The Brit driver and “guide” a lad in the bazaar and two guards outside the transportation hut. We are given a brief explanation of what these characters do, for those non-gamers in the audience, and then leaves the subject alone.

There is direct referencing to “respawning” and each character taken over by the teens has only three lives. In this telling of Jumanji, the animals never cross over into the real world and we have a somewhat more satisfactory ending with no apparent chance of another sequel.

The film works very well, despite having no less than four writers credit with the screenplay. Some stereotypes are used to “sell” the characters but this does not distract from the obvious enjoyment factor attached to this movie.

Bobby Cannavale is splendid as big boss Van Pelt and fans of Missi Pyle will be delighted with her tiny cameo in the film. Nick Jonas is more than capable as “Alex Freeke” the young man lost in the game since 1996 and sharp-eyed viewers will spot Colin Hanks (son of Tom) in another splendid but short cameo. 

The scenery, CGI and stunts all come together to give us a movie that feels like a video game in its presentation and structure. This all works perfectly and adds to the overall fun factor of the film.

Kasden has given us a film that entertains enormously. Any movie that ends with the viewer immediately wanting to see it again is a “win.” Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a full 5 star piece. It a glorious bit of adventure that tickles the funny bone and engages the viewer throughout. See this one at the cinema now for a full quotient of entertainment. The audience reactions are almost as fun as the film.

MTV VMA 2016: Minimal Effort for the Millennials (Editorial)

Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj

Perhaps the only thing more annoying than the faux fanboy “influencers” comedy duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele was the minimal  effort expended to entertain the millennial audience.  The show itself seemed to be an extreme answer to the lack of diversity displayed by the academy at the Oscars.

Hip-Hip ruled the night. Amid lackadaisical performances and the overreaction of the tweens in the audience this years video music awards was nearly unwatchable. The older performers were uneasy with their interactions with the younger stars.

Nicki Minaj looked almost hostilely bored during her number with Ariana Grande. Rihanna, who opened the show in a long dance number,  either could not be bothered to lip-sync most of her songs, or forgot.

Beyonce, the big winner of the evening, gave the performance of the evening. A monument to eclectic dance moves and lip-synced lyrics.  The microphone covering the mouth is a dead giveaway by the way.

The MTV Video Music Awards felt geared to a generation who did not cut their teeth on Michael Jackson and may even be tiring of Justin Bieber. This was aimed at the demographic who joined YouTube after  its heyday.  The kids who look blankly when MySpace is mentioned.

It was painfully obvious that the days of truly gifted and spectacular performers like Tina Turner are over.  Beyonce is a personal favorite, but hearing Tina belt out “Nutbush City Limits” was a special treat and not one performance by any female artist on the VMA’s came near that level of power last night.

The show was all about dry ice, flashing lights and a huge amount of dancers supporting the artists.  Perhaps the main problem was that all the music had a sameness to it.  There was no variety.

(On a sidenote, there could have been a lot more of Jay Pharoah)

This year felt sophomoric and apathetic compared to years past.  Miley Cyrus, who made the VMA her plaything was replaced by two comics posing as Twitter poseurs. And just to set the record straight:   Whoever thought  having Kim Kardashian-North present Britney Spears was a good idea?

Spears, the queen of lip-sync (cop the mic over the mouth) performed with G-Eazy who did the lion’s share of the work. The performance, like the show itself, was underwhelming.

The multiple hosts  this year were incredibly annoying: DJ Khaled and Nicole Byer, along with Peele and Key,  put the VMA at a level of irritation never before seen.

More interesting than the actual awards program were the camera shots of the rich and famous in the audience, arguably the best of any MTV VMA.  Kim getting a close of up of Kanye smiling with her smart phone.  West sidled up to Jayden Smith, and that wild hair cut. The clear excitement of the Olympic guests, who later presented an award,  and who all looked around 12 years old.

Jimmy Fallon came out to present the video of the year award and died.  Perhaps the average audience member is not allowed to stay up that late.  (Beyonce won this one, no real surprise there as this was her night.)

Beyonce won a total of six awards by the end of the evening.  Making her the woman of the “hour.” Rihanna kept upping her game and her final performance was her best. Less about the dancers and more about the singing, RiRi killed it.

Rihanna took the Michael Jackson Vanguard Video award after a long winded and slightly rambling intro from Drake. It was here that he declared his love for the singer.

All in all, the evening was pretty blasé.  A sort of masturbatory experience for a privileged few, we are talking about you Kanye and Kim, and  a total yawn fest  without the antics of Miley Cyrus.  When the highlight of the event is Drake declaring his love for Rhianna perhaps it is time to rethink the formula.

Bring back the spectacle guys and dolls, this was a major disappointment.

Jonas Brothers to Break Hearts with News of Their Break Up

Jonas Brothers to Break Hearts with News of Their Break Up

The Jonas Brothers are going to break hearts of fans the world over as the news of their break up was announced on Oct. 29. The musical trio, comprised of Kevin, the oldest at 25; Joe, 24 and Nick who is the youngest at 21, spoke to People magazine and confirmed that the group is disbanding.