Illustration by Tanya Bearson
A journey that never ends is the one we take inward. We never stop learning about ourselves, but sometimes we get stuck. In our current society, many people want you to have a label that says who you are, but you should always fight to break out of that.
Jumanji is a movie about what these labels mean. This movie is also a retelling of the original film starring Robin Williams, and is based on a book by Chris Van Allsburg. The story begins in the real world with the four main characters getting sucked into the game Jumanji while in detention after school. They come into the game as different people who wouldn’t be friends in reality, partly because they are in the roles the world seems to have placed them in. Fridge is the stereotypical jock, while Bethany is the stereotypical popular girl. Then there are Spencer, the nerd and Martha, the shy girl. They become the characters of the game they are sucked into Jumanji. The catch is that not only do they get sucked into the game, but their roles are all mixed up. They each picked a character to play that seemed like them, but then they get matched with an avatar in the game that is totally different. They all want to leave the game but they have to save the world which they are trapped in first. So, it forces them to experience some of life in someone else’s role.
As soon as the characters enter the game, the comedy steps in and never stops. Jack Black, who plays Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon, Bethany’s avatar, really shines portraying a stereotypical popular girl in a guy’s body; this creates a tone where Jack Black can really sell the funny quirks Bethany has.
Jumanji is just a barrel of laughs with heartwarming scenes and moments of self-discovery. Fridge and Spencer work through their differences. Bethany helps Alex come to terms with being in the game for twenty years. This movie achieved the perfect balance of serious and comedy, that all sci-fi movies should strive towards. There is a comedic tone underlying the whole movie but also some touching moments, so the movie feels well-rounded. It’s not uncommon for comedy movies to rely too much on the comedy aspect, making the movie fun but at the expense of depth. Thankfully this movie avoided that quality.
Although their goal was to complete the game and return home, these characters found much more than they were expecting. The game might have started as just a game but it became a lesson, too. It taught each of the characters something new about themselves, or something they already knew but just hadn’t let show. As part of the audience, I came to have fun and it didn’t disappoint, plus it taught life lessons that all of us can remember while we walk through the halls of Berkeley High School.