Thursday, January 4, 2018

Welcome to 2018 ... and Jumanji ... and the jungle

Finally back from five nights out of town over New Year's. Welcome to my first post of 2018!

The movies we watched while down at the beach on the Mornington Peninsula -- and there was an average of one per day, I'm pleased to say -- took on two distinct themes, only one of which I'll talk about today. The other one I will mention, though, and that theme was Will Ferrell. We saw one good one (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy) and one, well, one not good one (The House).

The theme I am talking about today also involves two viewings, and they were both inspired, in part, by a Christmas present from my sister.

My sister's box of Christmas presents did not arrive here on time, or rather, it did arrive on time, but Australia Post made one attempt to deliver around December 13th, and never made another. Nor did they leave a note saying they'd made the
attempt, though they said they did. My sister tracking the package finally led to the revelation that it was sitting at the post office, but by then it was a day late and a dollar short.

Anyway, we picked up the box before beginning the 90-minute drive down to Rye, VIC on Friday afternoon for the start of our beach holiday. Because we didn't want to rile the kids up before bed, we postponed opening the presents until Saturday morning, at which point we could afford a rile-up. And riled up they became, as a surprising number of the presents hit with them in unexpected ways. It's not that my sister shouldn't be expected to successfully buy presents for them, just that she doesn't see them that much, and at the fast-changing ages of seven and three, it should be much more likely that she'd miss than hit ... especially without getting any hints from us.

Anyway again, one of the presents was the original storybook version of Jumanji. I suspect there are two reasons my sister chose this. One is that our family loves The Polar Express, also a storybook written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg; in fact, it's family tradition to read it every year on Christmas. Eve. The other is that, of course, there's a new Jumanji movie in theaters now.

The kids had never heard of Jumanji, but their interest was instantly piqued, and a first read kicked off a thirst that could not be quenched. That was actually our only read of the book itself on the trip, as we had a lot of late nights when no bedtime story was possible, plus my older son and I are reading the second Harry Potter book, which takes precedence over everything else. But the CD that came with the book became sort of the soundtrack of our trip. Robin Williams, star of the first movie, reads the book in one single, 18-minute track (and a surfeit of Silly Voices). That track got played at least six times over the next four days.

As luck would have it, the kids also saw an ad for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle on TV. I thought that would be just a funny coincidence, as I'd never have dreamed we'd consider my older son old enough to watch this movie, let alone his three-year-old brother ... who did, it should be said, turn four on the trip, as if that really changes the equation.

My wife had other ideas, though. My nefarious plan to get in a 2017 movie in the theater on this trip involved going to see Coco at a local drive-in; hers involved Jumanji. I guess Pixar has really dropped in her estimation if a remake of a not-great Robin Williams movie trumps the studio's latest. (Or maybe she just didn't want to support John Lassiter, one of those implicated in the Me Too scandals.)

That worked for me as focus quickly switched from the drive-in (a 9 o'clock start time was not great for scaling back on the late nights) to the four-screen theater in neighboring Sorrento. (Hey, either was fine for me -- I'm just the guy who likes to see movies on vacation.) Besides, that theater is called the Athanaeum, and who doesn't want to go to a theater with that kind of name?

So we went to see Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle yesterday, but I'm actually telling things out of sequence now.

Before that, on Tuesday afternoon, we got our jungle whistle whetted via a viewing of The Jungle Book, the new one from 2016. My older son had watched the original with me a few years back, first time for both of us, but it might as well have been when he was still in the womb for all he remembers it. Anyway, we happened to have it from the library, and I brought it with us as part of a larger than necessary supply of emergency viewing material. That "emergency" arose after a long beach day on Tuesday, when we just needed something to bridge us from the time we finally extricated ourselves from the heat until dinner time.

I was sufficiently impressed by this version of the story, though I suppose not quite enough to give it the full four stars it might have deserved. (Remember, Vance, 3.5 stars is a good rating, even if it's out of five.) As my wife was the one who pushed this specific film -- even stranger because she missed the first half of the film herself while lingering a little longer at the beach -- I have to wonder, now, if she was trying to lay the groundwork for Jumanji, or just capitalize on an evident appetite for jungle-related entertainment.

So we did indeed see the new Jumanji again yesterday, after we'd already checked out of our room, again dashing from the beach in time for the 3:20 show, to which we'd already purchased tickets online. In fact, such was our rush that I didn't even have time to consider that the younger one would probably seriously cripple the viewing of this movie for either my wife or me, or most likely, both of us.

Didn't happen. He did wriggle and spend some time on the floor and quite a bit of time in my wife's lap, but he watched the whole thing, and only vocalized his questions a handful of times. And a few "shit"s, penis jokes and the occasional, you know, on-screen death aside, the movie was pretty much fine for him.

I got quite a bit of enjoyment out of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which I'd never been looking forward to (not a fan of the original) and was planning to give a miss. It was pretty damn funny with some rousing set pieces. More than that, I like that they ignored the obvious way to remake Jumanji for the 21st century, which was as a straight remake because "now you can make the CGI animals look more realistic." Whether it was awareness of the anti-CG revolt or just good, sensible outside-the-box thinking, they decided to invert the Jumanji concept in this movie, bringing the characters into the game rather than bringing the game to them, and making it a retro video game rather than a retro board game. Plus, CG animals play a comparatively small role in this. Nice decisions, all, and kudos to all four of those on the poster above for bringing the funny.

Now I suppose if we wanted to combine all the themes of the trip in one movie, we might have watched Will Ferrell in Land of the Lost.


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Deepak Yadav said...

I am the fan of Dwayne Johnson and love to watch his all movies. I watch Jumanji and in 2018 I watch Rampage full movie. I enjoyed his role in action and sci-fi movie Rampage. It is a great experience to watch Johnson in the movie.

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