After a tough week at work (witnessing your university commit suicide publicly is never edifying) my daughter and I decided we wanted a “Friday night film”. Unfortunately Friday night films rarely manage to meet their meagre requirements (high on entertainment, medium of plot, mid to high chuckles, low on thought). So, we opted for Jumanji 2. Johnson is the King of Friday night films, and this movie was preceded by two trailers for upcoming Dwayne Johnson films, as if his casting is now a union mandate.
It features a set of four Breakfast Club type stereotypes thrown together in detention. They get sucked into the Jumanji video game where they assume their avatars, which are the opposite stereotype (selfie obsessed vain girl becomes middle aged Professor, nerd becomes the Rock, etc). There are a few good laughs with these reversals, with Kevin Hart getting the best lines (“zoology, bitch!”). There is a Boris Johnson level of having their cake and eating it with Gillan’s skimpy outfit – she comments on it which can be seen as criticising the representation of women in video games, but then she spends the rest of the film in that outfit, thereby appealing to boys who like their women to appear like that in video games.
The best theme in the film is the conscious use of video game references, such as Non Player Characters who repeat the same lines. This could have been extended further, but the film has decent action sequences, requisite tension, and Hart and Black play their usual characters with relish. Ironically then one of the better films about video games isn’t a video game adaptation. The error such adaptations make is to view the game as a novel in terms of source material, rather than making a film about the game. The dog poo bin that was Assassin’s Creed would have benefitted much from taking the Jumanji approach.
It is not an A grade Friday night film, in the calibre of say, Guardians of the Galaxy, but it served its purpose, and that’s rare enough.