Writing Movie “WRONGS”
By Jim West
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Directed by Jake Kasdan
Written by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner
A movie sort of sequel to 1995’s Jumanji film which was based on a book. This film modernizes the premise of being transported into a board game by utilizing the games transformed into a video game. Starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Nick Jonas, and Karen Gillam. They play the in game avatars for the four high school students who get transformed into the game and must win the game to get back to the real world. The writers have a great cast on hand and deliver a lot of laughs. I think Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson may be the best comedic duo on screen right now. I think they would make a brilliant Twins movie remake updating the Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito comedy classic.
Here comes the spoilers.
Film opens with a father who finds an old board game on the beach and brings it home to play with his son who rejects the idea of playing an old board game. The game turns itself into a video game and the boy is transported to the world of Jumanji and never seen again by his family. Years later four high school students get detention and assigned to clean up old files in the school’s basement. There they find an old video game system and to pass the time they decided to play the game. They get magically transported to the fantastical world of Jumanji and each student finds their avatar is essentially helping them become a better person back in their real life. The wimpy kid gets to be Dwayne Johnson and is essentially invincible and super strong. The football player student gets to be Kevin Hart’s character and learns to be humble and use his brain. The shallow and vain girl learns that beauty is more than what’s skin deep. The smart girl learns that she can also be bold physically instead of just mentally. Hooray. Characters arcs box is checked. The game wants them to recover the Jaguar’s Eye and return it to its place in a mountain. The villain, Russel Van Pelt played by Bobby Cannavale, possesses the Eye and is controlling all the animals of Jumanji. The kids have to learn to use teamwork and utilize their strengths to tackle the puzzles and levels in order to win the game. They are assisted by Nick Jonas’s character who has been in the game for years (the young man from the start of the film). This is where the film’s story misses an opportunity to show life for him in the game all of these years. It seemed rather deus ex machina to have Nick Jonas appear in the ‘nick’ of time (pun intended) to save the others from the henchmen of the villain. How did he know they would be there? How was he perfectly prepared to rescue them? Here is where that flashback of his life before in the game would be of use. He could be coming to the market every day to intercept the four characters and every day they never are there. Then this day he is there and they are too and he is perfectly rehearsed and ready to save them. This also would to go great lengths to explain why he isn’t ready for the rest of the game as he never really practices anything else beyond that. This would also heighten the risks involved as the three lives game rule would matter more.
The four writer’s hit many solid comedic beats with the cast and really do a solid job with the comedy. As for this film, just the weak link is Nick’s character which could easily be fixed with jump cuts in a flashback sequence. Fix that small backstory issue and you have a stronger film that serves justice to all of its characters.
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