JU­MANJI: WEL­COME TO THE JUN­GLE

The Sunday Times - - FILM - VICKY ROACH

STAR­RING: Dwayne John­son, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gil­lan DI­REC­TOR: Jake Kas­dan IN CINE­MAS: Box­ing Day (PG) 119 mins VER­DICT: Game over

THE orig­i­nal Ju­manji, star­ring the late Robin Wil­liams and a young Kirsten Dunst, was at the cut­ting edge of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy when it was re­leased in 1995. Two decades on, how­ever, the move­ments of the com­puter-an­i­mals seem cu­ri­ously jerky. Even the ac­tors ap­pear a lit­tle wooden. All of which points to the supreme time­li­ness of this big-bud­get re­boot — which en­riches view­ers’ ex­pe­ri­ence with the de­tail con­tem­po­rary an­i­ma­tors are ca­pa­ble of.

In Wel­come to the Jun­gle, snakes writhe, ele­phants wrin­kle and rhinoceros­es stam­pede.

Au­di­ences see all the way back to the uvula of sali­vat­ing hip­popota­mus when the crea­ture opens his mouth to swal­low Jack Black in one gulp (the fact that we don’t wit­ness the ro­tund co­me­dian’s ac­tual demise prob­a­bly has just as much to do with the film’s PG clas­si­fi­ca­tion as it does the lim­i­ta­tions CGI).

The giant cen­tipedes that crawl in and out of the fa­cial ori­fices of vil­lain, John Hardin Van Pelt (Bobby Can­navale), push the “ick” en­ve­lope for an all-ages au­di­ence.

The film­mak­ers have set out to cre­ate a gen­uine sense of dan­ger in this jun­gle world — with­out ac­tu­ally trau­ma­tis­ing younger view­ers — and they have got the bal­ance just right.

The orig­i­nal board game trans­forms it­self into a video game in an eerie pro­logue that feeds back to the nar­ra­tive at a later point.

A bunch of stu­dents stum­ble upon the new ver­sion some years later af­ter be­ing told to clean out their school base­ment.

The nerd (Alex Wolff), the jock (Ser’Dar­ius Blain), the book­worm (Mor­gan Turner) and the bimbo (Madi­son Ise­man) meta­mor­phose, by way of their avatars and some su­per­nat­u­ral sor­cery, into mus­cle-bound ex­plorer (Dwayne John­son), his side­kick (Kevin Hart), for­mi­da­ble hero­ine (Karen Gil­lan) and mid­dle-aged car­tog­ra­pher (Jack Black) re­spec­tively — char­ac­ters that are the op­po­site to who they are in real life.

While Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence co-stars John­son and Hart con­firm their odd-cou­ple comic chem­istry in the se­quel, Black gets the juici­est body swap ma­te­rial to work with as Pro­fes­sor Shel­don Oberon, a mid­dle-aged man with the brain of a teenage girl.

Their task is sim­ple — to es­cape the game, they must re­place the jewel Van Pelt has stolen. But com­plet­ing the task will test each of them in a dif­fer­ent way.

Karen Gil­lan, Dwayne John­son and Kevin Hart.

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