The year is 1996 and children around the world are discovering a board game like no other: Jumanji. Carried by a Robin Williams not far from the peak of his career, the film was a hit at the Box Office and became cult over the years. Then, in 2015, Sony Pictures announced that a sequel was in the works. The surprise is great, the wait even more. Over the months, the cast is revealed, with Dwayne Johnson headlining. There are many questions. But what is this new episode really worth? We are answering it now.
Between tribute and novelties
Back in 1997. A man runs on a beach, and hears a heavy noise knocking in the sand. He stops for a moment and discovers an old board game, slightly buried, called Jumanji. He then decides to bring it back to his son, a teenage fan of video games. The latter, little interested in this format a little too outdated, leaves it aside until it turns into a game cartridge overnight. He then starts a game and is immediately sucked inside. from his console. 20 years later, four teenagers in detention discover this video game, named Jumanji, and decide in turn to give it a try.
Two things quickly jump out in the eyes of the viewer when viewing this sequel. First, she wants to pay a real tribute to the original film and tries, through several processes, to register in what has been achieved in the past. If it would have been strange to ignore the creations of yesteryear, especially via the film by Joe Johnston, we find it clever, for example, to present the discovery of the board game on a beach (Alan Parrish had thrown the game into the water in 1969). Better yet, the fact that one of the heroes of this sequel sleeps, in the jungle, in a makeshift shelter designed at the time by… Alan Parrish proves to what extent Jake Kasdan, director of this sequel, wanted support its homage to the original feature film.
The second thing that stands out is the desire of this same director to play with his time and the new technological or consumption habits linked to it. Thus, fans of the first episode as well as newcomers will not be disoriented by what is presented since the film uses the codes of the video game. As time passes, the winks are more and more numerous and we are amused to see, in particular, that the heroes of the feature film all have strengths and weaknesses that they will have to make the best use of it to succeed in their quest, just as they will have to manage their three lives so as not to arrive at the famous “Game Over” which would then mean death.
Un casting XXL
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, never take yourself seriously. The concept of four teenagers who select a character before finding themselves at the very heart of the video game, in the skin of their hero, is much smarter than one might think. Instead of wanting to take again the ideas of its elder, the film is inspired by them and goes further, without never slackening. We thus find an achievement packed with adrenaline, which quite cleverly mixes action and humor. Between the chases and the fight scenes, all the characters reveal themselves and dot the feature film with well-felt sentences and welcome jokes. In this sense, the cast of the protagonists seemed more than convincing to us. The Dwayne Johnson / Kevin Hart duo is, of course, above the rest and the two friends could carry the film on their own, but the others are also pleasant to follow. Jack Black, in a very effeminate role, comes out with honors and proves how much he is a cador of American humor. Karen Gillan, known for her portrayal of Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy, is also very fair and plays perfectly with the physical and psychological stereotypes that are those of her character.
Conversely, it is the disappointment that comes to the fore when it comes to evoking the big bad of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Van Pelt, played on screen by the excellent Bobby Cannavale, often does too much and sometimes seems against the grain. The feeling that emerges at the end of the screening is quite simple and cold: it is forgettable. This is also the case of Jefferson McDonough, the character of Nick Jonas, who is far from the charisma of his cronies and who frustrates us a little compared to the rest of the team.
However, you must remain clear on what awaits you. The making of Jake Kasdan is raw entertainment that has no other goal than to amuse the viewer for nearly two hours. Forget any possible subliminal message or societal questioning: this episode of Jumanji only wants to distract you. We can then, quite logically, point the finger at his scenario as thin as a tree leaf, and which would have deserved a more in-depth treatment.
This is also the case with regard to the treatment of the characters and in particular the stereotypes that the film returns to the eyes of the spectator. If he continually tries to play on it (the strong and powerful man, the funny service, the nerd with an unsightly physique or the pretty young woman with dreamy curves), we would still have appreciated a smarter management of each case so that everything is more digestible. By dint of wanting to laugh too much at the physical and mental clichés of the young generation, the production gets locked into it a little and sometimes even manages to send back an image contrary to that desired. Pity.
Another disturbing detail: the special effects that oscillate between the satisfactory and the failed. Surprisingly, for a production of this kind, with a substantial budget and intended for a young audience, we sometimes find sequences that disturb the retina. We think, for example, of a few failed scenes with regard to synthetic images (or CGI) or global digital processing (panoramas, waterfalls, etc.) sometimes below the feature films released in recent years. Fortunately, the soundtrack is also very immersive. Each piece fits the mood perfectly and it adds an extra dose of spice, especially when it comes to the action.