Theatre & Reviews

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Cast: Alex Wolff, Bobby Cannavale, Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Madison Iseman, Marc Evan Jackson, Maribeth Monroe, Missi Pyle, Nick Jonas, Rhys Darby, Ser’Darius William Blain, Sylvia Jefferies, Tim Matheson

Director: Jake Kasdan

The late Robin Williams made the original his very own. Now, some 22 years later, a fresh version following the same principles has been made for a new generation.

Four teenagers in detention discover an old video game console with a game they’ve never heard of and decide to play it in order to stave off boredom.

They are immediately thrust into the game’s jungle setting, straight into the bodies of their avatars and a whole exciting adventure unfolds.

What the impressionable teenagers soon discover is that you don’t just play Jumanji -Jumanji plays you. The group is forced to undertake the most dangerous adventure of their lives – and there is a likely chance they may get stuck in the game forever.

Director Jake Kasdin’s production offers enough star power and comic zest to deliver some fun moments and help lift audiences out of the doom and gloom of daily living.

Instead of a board game as it was in Chris Van Allsburg’ original bestselling children’s book, Jumanji is now a Video Game. Still a relic to the Smartphone-addicted 2017 teens who find it in a storage closet at their high school, the game grabs the attention of this breakfast club of misfits. They are nerdy Spencer (Alex Wolff), football jock Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), popular mean girl Bethany (Madison Iseman) and painfully shy Martha (Morgan Turner).

Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black and Dwayne Johnson

As they enter the game, this quartet transform into the adult avatars they chose when they decided to sign on.

Skinny Spencer morphs into Smolder Bravestone, the expedition leader played by muscle-bound Dwayne Johnson. Gridiron giant Fridge is reduced to pint-sized  zoologist Moose Finbar, portrayed by Kevin Hart. The introverted Martha (Karen Gillan) becomes the fighting fit Ruby Roundhouse. Attractive Bethany has been transformed into the bespectacled, rotund middle-aged Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black).

The actors all get in their licks, but Black steals every scene. He is expectedly hilarious, but the telling part of his performance is that, instead of exaggerating or patronising this Instagram princess, he finds her vulnerable heart.

Four screenwriters put the script together and director Jake Kasdan keeps the action humming as the characters learn important life lessons while dodging bodily injury as they attempt to restore the emerald eye of a jaguar carved into a mountain top. This updated “Jumanji” can’t outrun the clich√©s on its tail, but it tries its best to please.

About the author

Peter Feldman

Peter has been a journalist and arts critic for almost 50 years and served on The Star in various capacities for 35 years, ending up as a specialist writer on films, music and theatre. During that time he travelled extensively on assignments and interviewed many international film and pop stars, both in South Africa and overseas. He also covered some of South Africa's biggest film and musical events. He was one of only two South African journalists to be invited by Steven Spielberg to the Hook film junket in LA in 1991 where he interviewed the famous director as well as Dustin Hoffman and the late Robin Williams. He attended the gala James Bond premiere in London in 1981 and did an iconic interview in a Rolls Royce with Roger Moore who played Bond. He spent a week touring England with Queen prior to their Sun City visit in 1983, interviewed a host of international stars on films sets in Hollywood and London and was the first local journalist to nail an interview with The Rolling Stones prior to their SA visit in 1995.
He is active in the freelance field and his work has appeared in a variety of South African newspapers and magazines. He has also worked on TV and radio (ChaiFM 101.9) in his specialist capacity. Over the years Feldman has been the recipient of several awards for his contribution to music journalism and the SA record industry. He is a recent recipient of the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz award in recognition for his long standing journalistic support for the arts. He wrote lyrics for some top artists, including Sipho Mabuse, and had a hit disco single, "Video Games," which was released in 1988. He coined the phrase "Local is Lekker" which he used in his columns in The Star Tonight and broadcast in the 70s on David Gresham's popular afternoon show on Springbok Radio.

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