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szdaily -> Movies
Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle
    2018-January-12  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

《勇敢者游戏:决战丛林》

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale, Alex Wolff

Director: Jake Kasdan

TWO decades after Joe Johnston’s family fantasy adventure “Jumanji” (1995), which was based on a slim children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg, Sony has dusted off the property and delivered a sequel that doesn’t depend much on fading memories of that likeable film — though its original fans may now have children of an age to enjoy the new take, which reverses the premise.

It’s an entertaining, engaging, colorful picture in its own right with decently handled action-adventure set-pieces and sly comedy, detouring from the expected thrills and spills into body-hopping comedy drama.

In the first film a magical board game unleashed jungle creatures and vegetation on a small New Hampshire town; here, modern-day kids from the same town are transported into that world. The beautifully crafted board game of the earlier film is glimpsed in a 1990s prologue, but transforms into a game cartridge that has now become a retro item itself, enabling the movie to join several recent nostalgic explorations of now-primitive games like Beyond the Gates, Pixels and Wreck-It Ralph.

Likeable rather than overwhelming, it should appeal to holiday audiences who’ve already seen “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” or are looking for something with broader family appeal.

The prologue, which mimics the original by having a teenager disappear into Jumanji, is followed by a necessarily lengthy introductory sequence that establishes a “breakfast club” assembly of high schoolers — nerd Spencer (Alex Wolff), jock “Fridge” (Ser’Darius Blain), brain Martha (Morgan Turner) and princess Bethany (Madison Iseman) — who stumble across the Jumanji cartridge while clearing out a school storeroom.

They load the game and pick avatars, then get sucked into the jungle world (which more closely resembles a catalogue of Hollywood clichés than anywhere in Africa). Gifted three lives apiece, they get instructions from a nonplayer character (Rhys Darby) to restore a jewel to a giant statue in order to complete the game and return to the real world.

The major innovation here is that the kids are stuck in archetype avatar bodies that don’t fit their personalities.

Nerdy Spencer is indomitable Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), hulking Fridge is jittery sidekick Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart), wallflower Martha is badass babe Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) and shallow pretty girl Bethany is tubby middle-aged male boffin Professor Oberon (Jack Black).

The multi-authored script is surprisingly clever, intertwining character comedy with fantasy adventure, and several key points depend on players being willing (or forced) to sacrifice their allotted lives to achieve a goal.

The perils are standard for a jungle romp — mercenary bikers, stampeding white rhinos, hordes of snakes — but director Jake Kasdan handles thrills with solid professionalism. Having arrived here after quirky dramas (“Zero Effect,” “Orange County”) and midlist comedies (“Sex Tape,” “Bad Teacher”), he seems more interested in the business of the characters relishing or resenting their new bodies.

Johnson and Gillan especially enjoy acting against the images they present, with the muscular alpha hero revealing his inner nerd and the Lara Croft-looking jungle fighter complaining about her ridiculous outfit and making a grotesque hash of the art of flirtation. Black and Hart get more obvious jokes but carry them off with aplomb. Other characters are all game-generated, but Bobby Cannavale brings flashes of bug-infested menace to the token villain.

The movie is now being screened in Shenzhen. (SD-Agencies)

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