Mission Lab

REVIEW: ‘Jumanji’ is not like its innocent predecessor

December 22nd, 2017 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: ‘Jumanji’ is not like its innocent predecessor

Martha, Bethany, Fridge and Spencer are an eclectic group of high school students with only one thing in common: They’re all serving in detention.

That’s what happens when you smart off to the teacher (as Martha and Bethany did) or cheat on a paper (Fridge and Spencer). You’re then forced to clean out the school basement, which is filled with old newspapers, magazines and electronics, including a 1990s-era video game system with a cartridge titled “Jumanji.”

Faced with cleaning the basement or wasting time with a joystick, our unsupervised foursome does what most any group of teens would do. Play the video game!

But they soon discover that this is no ordinary game. It has magical powers, and within seconds they’re sucked into the game and battling for survival in a wild jungle. And instead of remaining in their bodies, they’re adjusting to a new life in the bodies of their avatars.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (PG-13) opens in theaters this week, 12 years after Robin Williams starred in the first Jumanji movie and 36 years after Chris Van Allsburg’s Jumanji children’s book was released.

It stars Dwayne Johnson as Spencer, Kevin Hart as Fridge, Jack Black as Bethany (her avatar is a middle-aged male) and Karen Gillan as Martha.

Despite having a few good messages, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is very different from its predecessor. Robin Williams’ 1995 version was considered mostly family-friendly, with few language concerns and zero sexuality. By contrast, the newest Jumanji is filled with so much coarse language and crude sexual jokes that moms and dads will be blushing – if not walking out of the theater, too.

Four male writers and a male director teamed up on this one, which explains the film’s crude infatuation with the female anatomy and its not-so-subliminal message: Women are merely sex objects. Yes -- surprise, surprise -- Hollywood has ruined another fun, fantasy franchise.

Most of the comedy falls flat, primarily due to its sophomoric focus on sex and body parts. An immature fifth-grade boy could have written it. (Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a creative PG-13 comedy, watch Logan Lucky.)

Ready for the details?     

Violence/Disturbing

Moderate. Each of the characters in the video game has three lives. When one person dies, he or she disappears, and the new person/life then falls from the sky. It sounds gruesome, but it’s mostly bloodless. Bethany dies in one instance when a hippo eats her. Later, Fridge gets trampled by hippos. Bad guys on motorcycle shoot at the foursome, with machine guns and missiles. Fridge and Spencer punch one another several times. We see a large snake. In perhaps the most disturbing scene, we watch a scorpion crawl out of a man’s mouth and bite another man, killing him. A large jaguar chases the group.

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

Excessive. Jumanji contains no nudity, but plenty of everything else in this category. Martha (in her new female body) sports a belly-revealing outfit and short shorts throughout the film. Bethany (in her male body) tells herself as she tries to gain confidence: “You can hook up with whoever you want.” She jokes about going to school in a bikini and flashing skin. There’s a joke about breasts, and two jokes about sex that I won’t print here. Bethany (in her male body) teaches Martha (in her new female body) how to flirt with guys and walk provocatively. We then see Martha do exactly that, awkwardly. There are multiple jokes among the group about the male anatomy, including a lengthy, uncomfortable scene in which Bethany (in her male body) is forced to urinate in the jungle. The two men in the group teach her how to do it. Outside the jungle, Bethany shows various amounts of skin at school, including in a belly-revealing outfit in gym class. Two characters kiss twice.

Coarse Language

Excessive. I counted about 55 coarse words: H-ll (16), a-- (13), OMG (20), d--n (2), s--t (2), misuse of “Jesus” (1) and b--ch (1).

Positive Elements

We get a peek at the home life of Fridge and Spencer and their respective moms. Each seems to have parents who truly love them.

The film has a solid anti-clique message (see below).   

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

Fridge enjoys drinking alcohol, and he gets drunk. Bethany, in the real world, is addicted to her social media account. She posts a staged picture of her waking up, and then frets because a certain boy never “likes” it. Spencer and Fridge collude to cheat, with Spencer writing a paper for him; they get caught.   

Life Lessons

Mixed in with the muck are lessons on overcoming fear, getting out of one’s comfort zone, not bullying, and not judging on appearance alone. Meanwhile, our heroes – comprised of an athlete, a popular pretty girl, and a couple of other teens who don’t fit in – learn to break down the social walls at school and mix with people outside their cliques.     

Worldview

The new Jumanji film takes place inside a fantasy world ruled by spirits.

But the film’s message about cliques – which dominate high schools across the country -- deserves the most attention. As Christians, we know cliques are unhealthy, unbiblical and even riddled with sinful thoughts. Taken too far, cliques promote an “us” vs. “them” mentality and are void of love for others.  

Jesus, of course, broke down the walls within the church, telling us there should be no divisions (1 Corinthians 1:10). That is ultimately possible only with the power of Christ. It is something we should strive toward in every realm of society – inside the church and inside our schools.  

Family-Friendly?

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is not family-friendly.

What I Liked

The messages about cliques and breaking down barriers.   

What I Didn’t Like

The humor. Some of it is funny. Most of it is not.

Thumbs Up … Or Down?

Thumbs down.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do we form cliques? How can we overcome them?
  2. Name some creative ways we can reach out to people different from us.
  3. Each member of the group learned to get outside its comfort zone. What are some ways God might want you to get outside your comfort zone?
  4. What did you think about the movie’s view of women and sexuality?

Entertainment rating: 2 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is rated PG-13 for adventure action, suggestive content and some language.