The Bock’s Office: ‘Jumanji’ a welcome, updated sequel
You find some unlikely compatriots in detention, but the new generation of Breakfast Clubbers in “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” have to contend with more than just a guy who raided Barry Manilow’s wardrobe.
Brantford High School students Spencer, Fridge, Bethany and Martha (Alex Wolff, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner) couldn’t be more different.
Spencer is an overcautious nerd, Fridge is the super jock who recruits him to do his homework, Bethany is the queen bee and Martha is an extreme introvert.
When all of them find themselves in hot water in school on the same day, they all land in detention, doing pointless busywork and thinking about their actions.
However, their dull task takes a turn when they discover an old video game console.
Since they’d rather kill time with a game than chores, they happily plug in the system only to be sucked into the attached cartridge, a mysterious game known as “Jumanji.”
The foursome find themselves in a terrifying jungle, but even scarier is the fact that they are no longer their true selves, instead inhabiting the bodies of the game characters they selected.
There’s no time to get used to the shock of this change, because not only are they in the game, but the only way to return to reality is to use their newfound skills to save the land from an evil explorer (Bobby Cannavale).
Otherwise — game over.
Dwayne Johnson essentially plays himself as Spencer’s new alter ego, archaeologist Dr. Smolder Bravestone, but with the added twist of being a rugged, nearly indestructible action hero with the heart of a mama’s boy whose only real talent is with a joystick.
We’ve never heard The Rock whisper repeatedly to himself, “Don’t cry, don’t cry,” but there’s a first time for everything.
Kevin Hart likewise is at odds with the towering kid who now has the body of a pipsqueak known as Franklin “Mouse” Finbar — Fridge picked him because he thought it said Moose — Bravestone’s weapons valet, who has expertise in zoology and almost nothing else.
Wait, no, he’s also quite skilled at mouthing off to people who could pound him into pulp.
Jack Black is outrageous fun as Shelly Oberon, a professor and cartographer who becomes Bethany’s avatar, the social media princess promptly split about what’s worse about her predicament — being a stocky, middle-aged man or being separated from her cell phone.
Karen Gillan looks like she’s auditioning for the new “Tomb Raider” movie as all-around butt-kicker Ruby Roundhouse, but Martha’s inhibitions don’t let her enjoy her newfound form, let alone her crop top and short shorts.
Yes, skimpy clothing in the jungle is a poor choice, but let’s not pretend video games always make sense.
If you’re wondering why the board game of 1995’s original movie suddenly transmogrified into a console — Because who plays board games anymore? — the explanation for that is far more simple than some of the elements of its upgraded version, like a guide (Rhys Darby) that speaks only in rhyme when giving our players clues in their quest to get back to real life.
Even so, the manufacturers of your typical Xbox or Playstation game wishes they could create such an engrossing environment, as the landscape of Jumanji looks expectedly superior to the first movie — made during the awkward special effects period of the 1990s when computer-generated images were still getting all the bugs out — and is also complemented by a surprisingly smooth script.
While the zeitgeist isn’t hurting for movies packed with meta-humor, the tone is just right here as our teen characters discover the strengths and weaknesses they never knew they had while pointing out the repetition and plot holes that even the best video games suffer.
The dark and often dismal nature of the original “Jumanji” is a liability that “Welcome to the Jungle” manages to avoid yet still acknowledge it with a crisp sense of humor and a cast that does everything right even when their characters take too long to wise up to the rules.
Hey, when it tells you that you have a weakness for cake, don’t take that lightly.
So much for the models that predicted a cool, wet summer for us here in western Colorado — at least I think it’s hot this July. Ranchers are probably relieved that it’s been a good haying season, and after the cool spring, it’s nice to have a “normal” summer, but it is indeed hot.