At this time of year, you’re better off to just lower your expectations, go with the flow and try to remember that ‘fun for all the family’ need not necessarily be a nightmare. The original Jumanji (1995) passed me by, so I am in no position to make a comparison, but this one is a beauty (if you like that sort of thing). Four high school students are put on detention. While fulfilling their tasks, they find an old video game and start playing it. The magic box zaps them onto the game’s jungle island and in doing so it turns them into different people. Spencer, the white nerd, becomes a hulking Afro-American (Dwayne Johnson), Fridge, the coloured footy star, finds himself as a wise-cracking hysteric (Kevin Hart), Martha the brainy girl becomes an outgoing hornbag (Karen Gillan) and, best of all, Bethany, the love-me-do chick who cannot live without her phone, is transformed into a middle-aged, overweight bloke (Jack Black). What they must do to return to their real lives is find an enormous green jewel and replace it in the rocky outcrop from where it was pinched. Naturally, the island is crawling with outrageously mean and scary bad guys who are hell bent on stopping them. The action is fast and loud and non-stop, while the humour is loaded with slapstick gags as well witty one-liners – Johnson’s delivery is appreciably restrained as a counter to Hart’s high-rev blather. But what is most enjoyable is the manner in which the actors portray the split personalities of their characters. Black is especially good as the girl in the man’s body – ‘her’ first experience of peeing with a penis is a hoot, without being needlessly vulgar. Of course, that is the movie’s most important theme for its young audience to absorb – that it’s important to accept the differentness of others. A surfeit of CGI (enough is never enough, these days) tends to diminish the effect of the brilliant climax, but nobody is there for the subtlety.
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