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JOURNAL REVIEW: Jumanji surprisingly funny; Downsizing a pint-sized bore

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Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Some 22 years after the release of the Robin Williams version, Jumanji is back with a sequel you never knew you wanted. Gone is the old fashioned board game; in its place a video game that sucks in four teenagers and places them into the bodies of their character’s avatars.

Most of the fun in the film comes from this switch: nerdy Spencer is now hulking Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), socially anxious Martha is now femme fatale Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillam), football star Fridge is a sidekick zoologist (Kevin Hart) and mean girl Bethany is overweight, middle aged Dr. Shelly Oberon (Jack Black).

These freaky Friday switches should get old fast, yet all of the actors find the heart of the teens they’re playing, which leads to genuine hilarity.

Jack Black’s portrayal of Instagram obsessed Bethenny is one of the funniest performances I’ve seen all year – it’s so specific in its perfection and never crosses into a caricature performance. The film is funny, self-aware and not quite as scary – so a perfect family film for the holiday season.

Downsizing

If you mix Honey, I Shrunk the Kids with the climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth, you’d be left with the disaster that is Downsizing.

The film tells the story of Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey Safranek (Kristen Wiig) who embark on the journey of shrinking themselves down to 10cms tall through a procedure called Downsizing.

Why on earth would they do that you ask? Well, it has its benefits – once small you live in one of many special communities designed for tiny people, and while your body shrinks, your money grows (their 100k savings becomes 12 million dollars) so you can live out the rest of your days in luxury and help the planet by requiring far less food, water etc.   It’s an interesting concept played up in the trailer to get you into the theatre, only to pull a quick switcheroo and trick you into watching a doomsday climate change movie with a little shrinking thrown in.

Matt Damon has never been so bland (perhaps his talent is now bite-sized too?) and the barrage of celebrity cameos (Jason Sudekis, Neil Patrick Harris, Christophe Waltz, Kristen Wiig) can’t save this movie from the inconvenient truth that it’s a snooze.

Vicky Sparks is a Bright’s Grove native and movie critic for Global TV’s The Morning Show, which airs nationally on Fridays. Her Journal Reviews cover movies playing at Galaxy Cinemas Sarnia

 

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