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Face-Off: Jumanji vs. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Welcome back, cinematic adventure seekers! For this session of the Face-Off we will be celebrating the release of superstar Dwayne Johnson's new movie, RAMPAGE , by looking at his biggest domestic hit, JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE. It's only befitting we do what many have already done and compare it with the original film, so this week we have two jungle-themed adventures going head-to-head, both filled with stampeding rhinos, vicious jungle cats, and disease spreading mosquitos. Get your explorer gear on, because it's JUMANJI vs. JUMANJI WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE

The original film from 1995 is a children's classic that found dangerous creatures and jungle stuff emerging out of a board game. Robin Williams led the hit film that's looked at fondly by 90s kids and anyone with a fondness for CGI monkies. The sequel, WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE, reverses the formula and brings it into the modern age by bringing four characters into the world of Jumanji, leading to very silly and exciting situations with plenty of one-liners and learned lessons.

Be prepared to venture into this Face-Off, because like Jumanji, once you begin, there's no going back until you've finished the whole thing! Muahahaha!

THE ENSEMBLE
Robin Williams as Alan Parrish
Bonnie Hunt as Sarah Whittle
Kirsten Dunst as Judy Shepard
Bradley Pierce as Peter Shepard
David Alan Grier as Carl Bentley
Jonathan Hyde as Van Pelt/Sam Parrish
Bebe Neuwirth as Nora Shepard
Patricia Clarkson as Carol Parrish
Dwayne Johnson as Dr. Smolder Bravestone/Spencer
Karen Gillan as Ruby Roundhouse/Martha
Kevin Hart as Frankline "Mouse" Finbar/Fridge
Jack Black as Dr. Sheldon "Shelly" Oberon/Bethany
Bobby Canavale as Professor Russel Van Pelt
Rhys Darby as Nigel Billingsley
Alex Wolff as Spencer Gilpin
Madison Iseman as Bethany Walker
Ser'Darius Blain as Anthony "Fridge" Johnson
Morgan Turner as Martha Kaply
Nick Jonas as Jefferson "Seaplane" McDonaugh/Alex
and Colin Hanks as Older Alex
DIRECTION
Joe Johnston made a name for himself as a director with pleasant, children’s popcorn flicks like HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS, THE ROCKETEER and THE PAGEMASTER. He was a perfect fit for JUMANJI, a kid’s movie with some nifty action scenes. That is just about what we get from Johnston as a director: A pleasant popcorn flick that moves at a solid pace. I mean, what am I gonna say about him? Aside from ROCKETEER and CAPTAIN AMERICA he’s not one to demonstrate a consistent, noticeable style that screams “Johnston!” He’s great at incorporating visual effects, but he doesn't always do a great job out of mixing the visuals with a sense of joy, sometimes moving from scene to scene with a simple point-and-shoot style. Honestly, no one should fault you for watching this and going, "Wait did Chris Columbus direct this?"
Jake Kasdan made a career in the world of comedy, starting out his directing work on shows like FREAKS AND GEEKS and UNDECLARED, moving into some funny films like WALK HARD and BAD TEACHER. No, none of those projects involved lots of special effects and action scenes, so JUMANJ may not have sounded like a logical fit. But with this sequel he made the movie work to his strengths. The movie shines the best and most often when the cast is bouncing off each other, and in large part that’s thanks to Kasdan’s skills at working with actors and making them feel natural around each other. He brings out performances from people you wouldn’t imagine could deliver such comedic goods (Dwayne Johnson), while making the most of the comedic talents of Hart and Black. He also makes a fine transition into the action realm, giving his beautiful, tropical landscape room to breath and staging breezy, simple action sequences.
STORY/SCRIPT

A young boy, Alan Parrish, is having a no good very bad day when all of a sudden he discovers a mysterious board game when it calls to him from the dirt. After beginning to play he gets sucked into the game and remains in a dangerous, wet jungle for almost three decades. He's then brought back to the real world when new players pick up the game, and they all must keep playing so as to set the world right, and send the jungle back from whence it came.

Okay, like a lot of kids movies, the script is not a reason to watch this movie. Character development and logical motivations are about as one dimensional as you can get. For example, the main reason Judy and Peter keep playing the game is so that everything can go back to normal so their Aunt Nora doesn't get mad. But what needs going back to normal at this point? The dirty kitchen? The monkeys and mosquitos are already gone! Just throw the food away and run a rag over stuff. Though we get some great moments with Robin Williams' Alan, once the action gets going everyone simply walks through one set of emotions, with bonds being formed suddenly at the end. Williams gets the good lines, which is good because he and effects are the only real reason to make this movie afloat.

The mysterious and deadly game of Jumanji has been discovered once again, and after morphing itself into a video game, it claims another soul. Years later, several kids in a BREAKFAST CLUB-esque scenario find the game while in detention (How did it get there? Who knows). They soon find themselves sucked into the game and playing as the avatars they choose. If they are to leave Jumanji they have to traverse the jungle and defeat the game, and in the process learn something about themselves. Friendship!

The sequel finds a fresh and clever way of bringing the series into the modern day, this time by actually putting the characters inside the game with a body-switching twist. Though the mission is pretty cut-and-dry, this setup gives the character's better incentive to work their way through the game, and one that fits into the more fantastical premise. The characters each have distinctive personalities, which clash even more when they're thrust into bodies and roles they would never assume in the real world. Thus, their journey is vastly more entertaining than a by-the-numbers action flick, and the scenario allows for the characters to discover sides they never knew they had. The character of Fridge doesn't get the same level of development as the others, and Hart's presence as the over-the-top funnyman remains unchanged throughout. But, the movie cranks out jokes like the jungle does mosquitos, and it keeps the movie lively and engaging, even if things end on a predictable note.

NOTABLE BITS & LINES

Burying the Game

Shoe Factory Accident

Alan Parrish and the Bullies

Finding the Game

Playing the Game

Alan: "Jumanji: a game for those who seek to find / a way to leave their world behind."

Sucked In/Bats!

New Owners

Attic Terror!

Finding the Game...Again

Bugs! Monkeys!

Lion in the Attic

Alan Returns

Memories

Clean Shaven

Judy: "What happened to you, you shave with a piece of glass?"

Alan: "What happened to you, the Clampetts have a yard sale?"

Alan: "You think that mosquitos, monkeys, and lions are bad? That is just the beginning. I've seen things you've only seen in your nightmares. Things you can't even imagine. Things you can't even see. There are things that hunt you in the night. Then something screams. Then you hear them eating, and you hope to God that you're not dessert. Afraid? You don't even know what afraid is. You would not last five minutes without me."

Sarah Whittle

Playing the Game, Again

Flower Power

The Hunter Van Pelt

Stampede!

River Run

Monkey Boy

Stampede 2

Discount Store Chaos

The Vines Grab a Cop Car

Alan: "What, are you crying? You don't cry, all right? You keep your chin up. Come on, keep your chin up. Crying never helped anybody do anything, okay? You have a problem, you face it like a man."

Sarah: "Well, a little rain never hurt anybody."

Alan: "Yeah, but a lot can kill you!"

Monsoon!

Quick Floor

Alan: "Stop giving me things that come apart!"

Spiders!

Earthquake!

One Last Roll

Alan: "Jumanji."

Back to the Past

A New Future

The Game Lives On

New and Improved Jumanji

Meet the New Crew

Detention All Around!

Spencer: "Jumanji: a game for those who seek to find / a way to leave their world behind."

Sucked Into the Game!

New Bodies

Ruby: "Why am I wearing half a shirt and short shorts in the jungle?

Oberon: "No! I'm an overwieght, middle-aged man!"

Hippo Attack!

Finbar: "I got a backpack on! You don't get in water with a backpack, everybody knows that."

Oberon: "I, like, can't even with this place."

Nigel Billingsley - NPC

The Cut Scene

Abilites/Smoldering Intensity

Level 2

Roundhouse's Epic Kick

Bravestone: "Get on my back!"

Finbar: "I would rather die!

Bravestone: "You have to get on my back!"

Finar: "Nope, I'm gonna die!

The Life System

Pee Break

Oberon: "Martha, come look at my penis!"

Spencer/Bravestone vs. Fridge/Finbar

Bravestone Lays the Smackdown

The Bazar

Cake Attack!

Finbar: "Am I still black?"

Snake Charming

Dr. Bravestone Unleashed

Meet Jefferson "Seaplane" McDonaugh/Alex

Alan Parrish's House

Flirtation Class

90's Kid Alex

Martha Embraces Her Skill Set

Helicopter Escape

Rhino Charge

Finbar: "You do NOT want to know what's under those rhinos! I saw things I can never unsee, things that touched me!"

First Kiss

The Final Level

Bravestone Gets Brave/Squirrel Fail

Van Pelt's Ambush

Finbar: "Zoology, bitch!"

Roundhouse's Sacrifice

The Gem is Returned

Bravestone: "JUMANJI!"

Back Home

Alex's New Life

Destroying the Game

VISUAL EFFECTS/PRODUCTION DESIGN
Yes, this movie has some insanely dated effects. The monkeys look worse than the worst STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE effects, and there are times when the digital animals look cartoonish as they barrel down the road. But the movie is a cherished classic thanks to some impressive work with animatronics, puppetry, and production design, as the giant house goes from fancy estate to vine-clad jungle landscape. The designs of the people-eating flowers, lion, crocodile and the entire monsoon sequence are forever branded in the minds of young viewers. I for one have never forgotten the image of the lion emerging from the shadows of the attic, and that's thanks to some good old-fashioned animatronic work. Here's to a forgotten era!
The effects of the first JUMANJI may seem dated now, but relative to back then they still hold some weight. When comparing this new JUMANJI to the standard of modern visual effects it's hard to remember this movie's CGI or effects are there any until they look terrible. Animals look big and cartoonish, and there are noticeable moments when the characters (particularly Johnson when he's darting around on a motorcycle) fail to make you forget they were shot on green screen, which there's no excuse for in this day and age. The natural jungle landscape looks beautiful of course, but this movie doesn't get a check mark for taking advantage of waterfalls and shit.
THE PLAYERS
Thank god for Robin Williams. While the child characters are dull and even a bit grim, Williams gives the movie a much-needed abundance of heart, warmth and a bit of humor. But can he carry the movie on his own? Sadly, no. Once the carnage gets going he doesn't get to be as funny and genuine as we know he could be, and spends too much time running from set piece to set piece, often telling the other characters "I told you so!" He gets a few good moments with Bonnie Hunt, who is good here, but other than that the character work is very surface-level
For an action movie like this, it's funny to realize the main reason to visit this movie over and over is the stellar work between the main cast. Johnson, Hart, Gillan and Black work wonderfully together and do expert jobs playing against-type (except for Hart, who is just playing Kevin Hart). Johnson gives one of his best performances ever as the dorky, allergy-ridden Spencer in a muscley body, and the stunning Gillan actually gets to embrace her dorky, awkward side. Then there's Black, who plays a teenage girl with such aplomb it's a crime we don't get to see more of it. The movie's primary triumph is how these characters interact in their new skins and as their real personalities clash. This movie would not have worked if everything I've mentioned didn't come together, and because it nailed it, it got to reap the rewards.
THE ADVENTURE
Like with the visuals (and Williams), the main reason people keep returning to this movie is for some classic jungle action with lions and elephants and giant plants. This works best during scenes inside the house, with a lot of fun coming out of seeing how it is destroyed by whatever emerges out of the game. The adventure hits a rough patch in the middle when it's just them outrunning stampede in the town and avoiding Van Pelt, who is about as dastardly as a guy twirling a mustache. Still, like a lot of childhood classics, it's hard not to get swept up in the action as if you were young again, with a practical lion animatronic swinging his massive paws and a Williams wrestling a fake crocodile.
While the original JUMANJI actually gets to call itself a classic, this new movie also represents the ideals and themes of an old-school adventure flick. We're in an exotic locale, some treasure is involved, a map needs to be completed and there's an actual expedition underway. And to mention once more, the character dynamics make you the characters more relatable, thus more likely to care about where the journey takes them. The result is something constantly entertaining and exciting, which is really all you can ask for out of any adventure film.
PRAISE & MONEY

Praise

Money:
    $100 million domestic ($262 million global)

Praise

Money:
    $403 million domestic ($949 million global)
JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
Look, JUMANJI is a childhood classic. I saw the movie so many times as a kid I can basically recall it beat-by-beat. But nostalgia is not a metric in this competition. As a film, on its own, JUMANJI is simply not that strong. The characters are mostly weak, the direction is very point-and-shoot and the script leaves a lot to be desired. If it weren't for the impressive (mostly) practical visuals and Williams doing the best he could, I'd say there's not much to really revisit this movie for other than to remember when times were simpler. But with JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE, the sequel was able to take the same basic premise and do something much wilder and with more joy, energy, and humor. The idea of being sucked into a game (or having the game come into your world) is ridiculous, and this movie embraced the lunacy with a clever body-swapping twist that gives the movie a much stronger identity than a straight-up adventure flick. The plan was to make this movie feel unique from the original, and in the process has taken the top spot on the leaderboard.

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