When Spencer “the nerd” (Alex Wolff), Fridge “the jock” (Ser’Darius Blain), Bethany “the princess” (Madison Iseman), and Martha “the smart one” (Morgan Turner) are sent to the school’s basement for detention, they end up opening a portal into the world of Jumanji.
Inhabiting archetypal video-game avatars in direct contrast to the real-world selves, our four teens with attitude have to rid the world of a curse while maneuvering through social and personal conflicts.
It’s a mix of Freaky Friday and the Breakfast Club, but the action/adventure twist makes Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle a fun film. It also helps that the movie doesn’t eschew character building and development.
Spencer, familiar with video game mechanics, takes the lead as the muscle-bound explorer Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) while Fridge takes a sidekick role, entering the game as the zoologist Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), a diminutive researcher whose special ability allows him to hold weapons. Bethany, whose cell-phone addiction has kept her distracted throughout high school, takes the role of the portly Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black), the group’s cartographer, and Martha takes on a more active position in the group’s dynamic as the group’s physical bruiser Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan).
Continue reading “We Got Fun and Games — Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Review”
The problem with every Spider-Man movie thus far has been the constant rinse and repeat plot points that relentlessly drive home the point that Peter Parker has real-life problems. He’s an orphan, living a lower-middle-class life with his loving and better-life-deserving Aunt May. Bitten by a radioactive spider, the brainiac Parker creates an alter-ego and adopts New York City as his charge while juggling a romance with Gwen Stacy. Issues like these make for compelling story elements, but they’re tied like cinder blocks — ironically, because they’re meant as foundations — to the movie’s ankles, dragging it down and eventually burying it.
It’s very clear early on that the relationship between Peter (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen (Emma Stone) is the focal point. Anyone familiar with the comic books knew what to expect — Stacy’s graduation speech throws an ominous and predictable cloud on the entire movie. Out of college and out of his relationship — visions of Captain George Stacy (Denis Leary) haunt Spider-Man even in the midst of battle — Parker catches up with Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan) after the younger Osborne inherits Oscorp from his dead father. Things take a turn when Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) becomes the poster child for workman’s comp and turns into Marvel Universe’s version of the Emperor from Star Wars landing him in a secret research facility as another rat for the company’s clandestine Secret Projects (seriously?) department. Adding to the convoluted script is another plot twist when Harry asks Parker for a very special favor — get blood from Spider-Man.
If you like your movies bloated and overwhelmed with characters, plot threads, and character development without having the real estate of time or the precise script to do them justice, then Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the ultimate textbook example of what not to do in a superhero movie. Neither the Rhino (Paul Giamatti), Electro (Foxx), or the Green Goblin (DeHaan) are more than a sum of their parts though we’re constantly told that we should care. And don’t get me started on the needle in a hay stack plot developments that string along all of the various scenes forming a Frankenstein’s monster that lacks the energy, urgency, or drive worthy of the lifeless body left in Peter’s arms. Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a means to an end, but everything is so casually swept under the rug at every turn that the movie does the one thing it shouldn’t do — break its own rules. We can believe a man can have the aspects of a spider and that villains can rise to challenge his goodness, but I can’t stand it when a movie twists and turns to setup flimsy storylines that don’t stay the course — Peter’s parents become a non-issue after a visit to a ridiculously elaborate secret lab built in an abandoned train tunnel that’s so un-abandoned it still gets inspected. The first part of the movie worked incredibly well, and Garfield, Stone, and Fields are wonderful in their roles — DeHaan not so much as if he’s been told to act like a cardboard cutout in cringe-worthy scenes that make Hemlock Grove seem like Shakespeare. It’s tragic to see the movie slowly lose life over the course of the movie until it crawls to its finish at which point they cue the traditional Aunt May speech and show us what villains we’re supposed to expect in the next movie. If they stay the course, The Amazing Spider-Man 3 will be another lifeless exercise in the Spider-Man cycle as Parker struggles with the power and responsibility, falls in love with Mary Jane — Shailene Woodley was mercifully cutout of this movie — and then breaks up with her only to fall back in love after he saves her from some precarious position dangling from a strand of webbing. Just please don’t screw up Venom.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Directed by: Marc Webb
Written by: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, and Jamie Foxx