3 Stars – Thoughtful
This new sequel to the Jumanji film released in 1995 is a wonderful blend of the first film starring Robin Williams, the Breakfast Club and Tron. Set twenty-one years after the first Jumanji film, the tragic-magic of the Jumanji experience has morphed from a board game into a video game. Similar to the first film where a player began the game only to be trapped in the forest until other players join him 20 years later, this film also begins with a single player Alex, (Rick Jonas) who is joined by four high schools students on detention in their High School's basement. With a jock, a nerd, a socialite and a recluse, this ensemble has a similar journey as the Breakfast Club group. It is like Tron in that Jumanji the video game digitizes its players and inserts them into an already started game in the middle of a jungle where they join up with Alex.
The power of the film, written and directed by Jake Kasdan, is in its clear message presented by the principal to the four detention students: What kind of person do they choose to be? The use of avatars that help both define and expand their sense of who they are as they “play the game” helps each recognize their own true selves as well as the truth about who the others really are.
The avatar chosen by nerdy, video-game-playing Spencer (Alex Wolff) is Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson). This brave and powerful alter-ego helps Spencer find his strength. The avatar chosen by the football star Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain) is Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart). A person who uses others to assist him in his real life, Fridge learns to be of assistance to others. The avatar chosen by the socialite Bethany (Madison Iseman), who is consumed with her own beauty, is Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black). But Shelly is a nickname for Sheldon and Bethany experiences who she is without her feminine beauty and discovers a compassionate heart. Finally the reclusive Martha (Morgan Turner) chooses the last player, the attractive Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) allowing her to experience her own beauty inherent in her real life.
The plot is a simple one but with many unexpected twists and turns. Like the mystery of the original Jumanji the players do not know what will happen next, but rather than casting the die to move on the board, the game has levels that must be conquered against the villainous Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale). The goal of the game is to both free Jumanji from a greedy curse as well as return home to their lives.
Exemplifying that our games are often reflective of the games people play in real life, this film is a creative addition to the franchise as it morphs into this video version.
- When Spencer finds that he has been given the physical strength to stand up to the Fridge it allows him to express a part of himself that he did not know existed. What has opened your life to a different level of self-understanding? What did you do with that knowledge?
- The ability to flirt seems to be a skill that some women develop and others do not. Do you believe it is an important skill for a woman? Why do you answer as you do?
- The reunion at the end of the film is similar to that of the original film except that the players only knew the avatars and not the real persons playing the game. Yet when they met Alex, he knew who each of them were. How well do you think you would know your family and friends if they were suddenly to have different bodies?