Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle

It is a relief to report that writer and director Jake Kasdan’s instalment is a delightful, exciting and hilarious sequel.

Set 20 years after the original, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle sees a mismatched group of high-school students (Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Ser‘Darius Blaine and Morgan Turner) sucked into the titular video game, which their adult avatars (Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black and Kevin Hart) must complete if they wish to escape.

The film’s masterstroke is in its central casting of Johnson, Gillan, Black and Hart. The quartet share a lively, warm chemistry and perfectly embody both the strengths and insecurities of their teenage, human counterparts.

While all four actors are on top form it is Black who stands out. His animated, effeminate Shelly Oberon threatens to take the film hostage.

Less impressive is Kasdan’s use of CGI. So heavily does the director rely on it that it threatens to throw the film off-kilter and often undermines the emotional core of many of the film’s scenes.

Nevertheless, Kasdan infuses his film with a playful energy and fills it with plenty of gripping, action packed set-pieces to keep audiences enthralled.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a fun, uproarious adventure enlivened by the charming performances of its central cast.The original Jumanji was a bonafide smash hit all the way back in 1995.

Its success can be boiled down to three things: A ground-breaking mix of practical/CG effects, cute child characters (Kirsten Dunst, being one of them), and Robin Williams in one of his many iconic roles.Nowadays, nothing is surprising to the modern audience.

Studios now inundate us with sequels, reboots, superheroes, and universes.

The long-awaited sequel, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, had many obstacles to overcome.

Standing out amongst the competition is difficult, but this instalment ends up being one of the year’s biggest surprises.21 years later, dweeb Spencer (Alex Wolff), football star “Fridge” (Ser’Darius Blain), vapid popular chick Bethany (Madison Iseman) and Martha (Morgan Turner) are given detention for varying reasons.

Soon enough, the foursome become sucked into the game.

The Breakfast Club-esque set-up lasts roughly 10 minutes, hastily getting us to the fully-realised Jumanji universe.

The four embody video game characters Dr Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) and Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black).

This sequel-reboot does what it says on the tin.

Director Jake Kasdan finds his groove after woeful comedies Bad Teacher and Sex Tape.

Here, the material gives him more to work with.

Sticking to a brisk pace and light-hearted tone was correct, allowing the actors to flex their muscles and have a ball.

Hart and Johnson continue the dynamic first developed in Central Intelligence.

Johnson relishes the opportunity to play a nerd and gets many of the script’s best lines.

Black, coming back to mainstream movies after an extended hiatus, is even better.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle could have been a disaster or even one of the worst movies of the year.

Instead, thanks to a slew of dedicated people, it’s a step up from anything else out in theatres (The Greatest Showman, Pitch Perfect 3).

It is oddly fitting that Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is doing so obscenely well at the moment, for it was the first Jumanji (among the likes of Heat, Waiting to Exhale and Sabrina) that showed me back in 1995 just how leggy mid-to-late December releases could be. Joe Johnston’s Jumanji snagged a $100 million domestic total from an $11m debut weekend, while Sabrina legged it to $53.5m domestic on a mere $5.563m opening. That was the first time I noticed, at the tender age of 15, just how valuable that Christmas real estate could be to almost any movie. So yeah, Welcome to the Jungle is turning into a monster hit right alongside The Last Jedi.

Sony’s $90 million-budgeted Dwayne Johnson/Kevin Hart/Jack Black/Karen Gillan action comedy earned another $50.57 million on its second Fri-Sun frame, an insane 40% jump from last weekend’s Fri-Sun debut haul. That’s the third-biggest such jump on its second weekend ever for a movie playing on more than 3,000 screens and in the top ten among all movies that opened on more than 2,500 screens. The sequel to said Robin Williams 1995 fantasy has already earned $170m domestic with a likely 13-day gross of $186.3m. The inflation-adjusted domestic gross for Jumanji is about $204.2m, so Jumanji 2 will have sold more tickets than Jumanji in a few days from now.

Once it passes the $202 million gross of The Mummy Returns, it will be Dwayne Johnson’s biggest domestic grosser outside of the Fast and Furious films. It’s already the biggest live-action earner for Kevin Hart, Jack Black and, uh, Nick Jonas. And needless to say, it’s second only to the Guardians of the Galaxy movies for Karen Gillan. As for director Jake Kasdan, this will soon be bigger than his six directorial offerings (Sex Tape, Bad Teacher, Walk Hard, The TV Set, Orange County and Zero Effect) combined, and it may be so profitable that they can launder some of the money over to Walk Hard and finally get that much-loved cult gem into the black. Something-something-“Wrong kid died”-something-something.

The once implausible notion of topping the $250 million grosses of Night at the Museum (back in Christmas of 2006, the last time Christmas was on a Monday) or the $250m gross (in 1997) of the first Men in Black is now close-to-inevitable. Once it tops Amazing Spider-Man ($257m), it will be, not adjusted for inflation, Sony’s sixth-biggest domestic hit ever behind Skyfall ($304m), Spider-Man: Homecoming ($334m), Spider-Man 3 ($336m), Spider-Man 2 ($374m) and Spider-Man ($403m). Say what you will about Sony, but scoring two of your six biggest hits in one year is pretty damn impressive.

Worldwide is a little more complicated since I’m guessing it won’t top the $700 million+ likes of 2012 or The Da Vinci Code. It’ll (presumably) be their first $500m+ grosser outside of 007 or Spider-Man since MIB3 in 2012. I don’t have worldwide updates yet, but it was at $226m worldwide heading into the weekend, so it’s way over $300m already and possibly flirting with $350m global at the moment.

A domestic run like Night at the Museum (not likely) puts the film all the way up to $370 million domestic, but a more plausible “like Sing” run sends it to $280m domestic. If it tops Sing ($270 million), it’ll be the biggest grossing movie ever to never be #1 at the box office. I don’t want to overly speculate, but there frankly is little history of a well-received movie like this kicking butt on Christmas, holding great over New Year’s and then just dropping dead when the kids go back to school.

Sure, Sherlock Holmes ($209 million from a $62m Fri-Sun debut) was a little frontloaded, but a comparative run from this point onward still gets Jumanji over $256m. Again, I’m not sure I even want to speculate about a $300m+ grossing Jumanji sequel, but… well, let’s see how it holds up next weekend and then the weekend after against Paddington’s Big Score.

The movie is playing great across the board, even with The Last Jedi doing its thing. I am reminded of another big Christmas when Titanic sailed into the record books while Tomorrow Never Dies became the last 007 movie to snag a 5x multiplier ($125m/$25m) right alongside it. Maybe Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (arguably a more kid-friendly and more relaxing sit than The Last Jedi) is stealing some of that repeat business away from The Last Jedi, or perhaps Jumanji is benefiting from folks who either didn’t like The Last Jedi or don’t think it warrants a second viewing for one reason or another.

There was a time, just a few short years ago, where just one huge film doing as well as Jumanji would qualify as a successful Christmas, let alone playing second fiddle to a $600 million+ monster. But like Sing last year, we’ve got a movie that by itself would be a monster hit doing well against a 2400lbs gorilla. Oh, and Tom Rothman has his first genuine megahit over at Sony that isn’t a Spider-Man movie. Where they go from here will be interesting, but once again I think movies like Jumanji and Goosebumps should be their stock-in-trade and I really think they should make time for Jack Black in Goosebumps 2.

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