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Film review: Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle

Karen Gillan, Dwayne Johnson and Jack Black in Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle
Damon Smith

MORE than 20 years after family friendly fantasy Jumanji starring Robin Williams rampaged through multiplexes, Jake Kasdan directs an action-packed rumble in the jungle tailored to the short attention spans of digitally-minded teenagers.

Five screenwriters pay affectionate tribute to the late actor, respectfully passing the narrative baton to a new set of wise-cracking misfits, who have an equally close encounter with a herd of belligerent, stampeding rhinoceroses.

In the 1995 original, released as a time when the term "smartphone" was freshly minted, the horned beasts are unleashed from a magical board game and stampede down a quiet suburban street.

Fast-forward to the present day and state-of-the-art computer trickery allows Kasdan to orchestrate an outlandish set-piece involving angry albino rhinoceroses charging down a malfunctioning helicopter in a rocky canyon.

It's a preposterously overblown sequence in a film merrily divorced from realism that relinquishes the childlike innocence of the first film for an all-guns-blazing assault on the senses including ribald humour that will be too saucy for very young children.

Indeed, the film's running gag generally involves a male appendage in various states of arousal.

Computer gaming nerd Spencer Gilpin (Alex Wolff) serves detention alongside three fellow students at Brantford High School: strapping football jock Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain), social media-obsessed cheerleader Bethany (Madison Iseman) and shy bookworm Martha (Morgan Turner).

For their punishment, the teenagers begrudgingly clean out the school's musty basement, where they stumble upon a discarded Jumanji video game with four controllers.

Taking a break from the onerous task of removing staples from old magazines, Spencer, Fridge, Bethany and Martha are sucked into the game where the students take on the guise of heroic avatars.

Spencer becomes strapping archaeologist Dr Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Fridge is scaredy-cat zoologist Franklin Finbar (Kevin Hart), Bethany is quirky cartographer Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black) and Martha is reborn as acrobatic warrior Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan).

A plummy guide called Nigel (Rhys Darby) explains that the teenagers must combine their characters' complementary skills to recover a green gem and lift a curse.

Aided by a handsome pilot (Nick Jonas), the students each have three lives to overcome the game's myriad levels and defeat a menacing villain (Bobby Cannavale).

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is less than the sum of its fitfully entertaining parts.

Johnson and Hart catalyse an amusingly fractious double-act while Black has a hoot channelling the sassiness of a classroom queen bee.

Cannavale is a pathetic and ineffectual villain and Jonas is surplus to requirements but his chisel-jawed presence allows Black to fawn girlishly to scene-stealing effect and inject some unexpected homoeroticism to the testosterone-heavy tomfoolery.

JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE (12A, 119 mins) Action/Adventure/Comedy/Romance. Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale, Rhys Darby, Alex Wolff, Ser'Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner. Director: Jake Kasdan

RATING: 5.5/10

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