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Jumanji – a game that you’ll never want to experience, especially at the cinema!

In life it’s always ‘nice’ to saying something positive before you rip an idea to shreds. You know, the praise sandwich. Think of the good things to say. Well, the script was strong but the acting was a bit lacklustre or the cinematography breathed life into a tired script etc…

With Jumanji it’s been quite a trek for the characters and myself as I sat today through the press screening of a film I don’t deny I had high expectations of. (is it just me or do you feel a bit funny that a word doesn’t follow of?)

Only last week I watched the original Jumanji starring Bonnie Hunt, Kirsten Dunst and of course the late great Robin Williams who made the main character role endearing, vulnerable and hugely entertaining. It was an adaptation of the 1981 children’s book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg with the story focusing on young Alan Parrish, who becomes trapped in a board game while playing with his best friend Sarah.

Twenty-six years later, siblings Judy and Peter Shepherd find the game, begin playing and then unwittingly release the now-adult Alan (Robin Williams). After tracking down Sarah (Bonnie Hunt), the four aim to finish the game and reclaim their lives pre-Jumanji.

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The film was released on December 15, 1995 and despite its lukewarm critical reception, it was a box office success.

So let’s fast forward to today back at the extremely comfortable reclining seats and aeroplane-style table flap at Springfield Quay cinema. First off, I need to say that I love feisty Karen Gillan, macho Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and who can deny that Jack Black plays wacko crazy well. But, and this is a big but, the film has the worst script ever, poor casting and a dire plot. Which is crazy because all they had to do was stick to the remake, inject some modern quips, some high-tech – okay they did that and at least it’s relevant – and celebs that would be believable in the roles.

The remake changed the story thus: It starts off with a games console-loving teenager Alan Parish who’s handed the Jumanji game from his dad who happened to find it washed ashore near his home. The board game magically changes into a console-style game, Alan plays it and disappears forever. Ooohhh.

Fast forward twenty years and four teenagers wind up in a detention room where the game is conveniently not so well hidden.

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The not-so fearsome four characters are Bethany – annoying in-crowd, popular, beautiful girl who’s obsessed with taking selfies and can’t see past her image to the real world. (ah, life’s lesson is about to unveil) There’s geek Spencer (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice-type geek) who is used by a former friend to write an essay but is caught out (hence detention), jock Anthony (the friend user) and swot Martha who doesn’t see the point of gym class as it won’t help her get into Princeton. Not quite a motley crew of rebels but let’s go with it.

Breakfast Club-style detention (if you’ve watched Pitch Perfect, you’ve probably seen The Breakfast Club by now)
results in them goofing around, finding the games console and prompted to choose characters.
Bethany becomes Professor Shelley Oberon (Jack Black), Spencer becomes smoldering hero Dr Smolder (Bond-style hinting in the name) Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Martha becomes martial arts assasin-type Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) and Anthony who prides himself in his appearance becomes a weak, unfit Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart).

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So Jack Black plays a young, hot, teenage girl – oh, what fun. The silly premise get even sillier when nature calls and Jack Black/Bethany has to relieve himself, shake his/her tackle, water the flowers, drain the dragon. Toilet humour, you see.

You can see where all the gags are going already and by this point the script was so thin I was hoping the gags would be a-plentiful but I had two hopes of that happening. Bob Hope (late, famous comedian) and no hope.

The teenagers begin to discover you don’t just play Jumanji, you must survive it and in typical gaming style are given three lives and challenges to beat the game and return to the real world. They face rhinos, snakes, a green-eyed cursed baddie, jaguars and some bad ass, gun totin’ motor cyclists.

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Like many console games each character has strengths and weaknesses and for example, one of Dwayne Johnson’s strengths is he smolders – why oh why did the writers do this? It’s like they knew the script was so bad they thought ‘if all else fails let’s just make ’em laugh’. I laughed at how bad it was, oh yes I did.

So, the desperate four all end up with one life left and maybe make it back (no spoilers). They’re all told to shout out ‘Jumanji’ once they’re replaced a precious jewel if they want to escape. I was so close to shouting out ‘Jumanji’ during the screening to solicit my own escape but my good manners got the better of me. Damn those manners.

Seriously, if you’ve got anything else to do rather than watch this film then do it. In fact, just find your inner child and watch the original and then you won’t feel cheated out of two hours of your life you’ll never, ever get back. Aaaahhhhhh!
review by Susie Daniels

Jumanji is out this Wednesday.

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