Four teenagers are sucked into a magical video game, and the only way they can escape is to work together to finish the game.Four teenagers are sucked into a magical video game, and the only way they can escape is to work together to finish the game.Four teenagers are sucked into a magical video game, and the only way they can escape is to work together to finish the game.
Rock On: The Life and Times of Dwayne Johnson
No one plays board games anymore, so what did the filmmakers do? They changed Jumanji into a video game. Simple, yet smart. This change not only made sense, it also opened the doors for the characters to possess and exhibit wildly over-the-top skills and physical abilities that would only make sense in a video game setting.
Also perfectly 2018, the handling of Karen Gillan's short shorts. The film earnestly attempts to comment on how video games exploit female characters in blatantly sexual ways. "Why am I wearing short shorts in the jungle?!" she exclaims. This scene is well done and could have made a worthy statement if the movie did not proceed to display her booty in the short shorts at multiple junctures throughout the film. The intentions were good; the execution, not so much.
Gillan plays a powerful female badass exceptionally well. She even nails the necessary nuances required in playing a shy, unconfident student who is merely inhabiting the avatar of the female badass. Each star in the movie plays the embodiment of an avatar assumed by the high school kids after they are sucked into the Jumanji video game. I understand that the last sentence sounds ridiculous. That's Jumanji. You have to tolerate a bit of ridiculous. Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, and Jack Black all deliver in their roles. Hart is hilarious. Black reminds us that he is still funny. Jack Black should be in more funny movies. Johnson is equal parts funny and charming to such an obscene level that it almost doesn't make sense. He's at the point now that he can still be wonderful and charming, even if the movie around him falls woefully flat (shout out to Baywatch).
Setting much of the film in a video game also excused an exceedingly simple plot. The movie embraces this. With all the funny lines, the best one comes when at one point someone asks a video game character in a car "why can't you just drive us where we need to go?" At that moment I realized that this movie knows exactly what it is.
Still, the movie is not perfect. Bobby Canavale's villain character is strange in a strange way, rather than strange in a cool way. The dialogue has its flaws too. At one point, Jack Black's character gives a pep talk to Karen Gillan's character about confidence. At first, it seems like a lovely speech that tells a teenage girl that she has value because of who she is as a person. Then it abruptly ends with "I'm just saying you're a babe." Oh, so physical attractiveness is what gives her value? Ugh. Once again, they were so close to delivering a worthwhile message, but fell just short.
These faults are only slight hiccups. Most viewers probably will barely notice them. They certainly didn't ruin my enjoyment of the movie. Above all else, the movie is about fun. And on that aspect, it comes through with flying colors.
- Jan 23, 2018