Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Cinema Review)

12A – 119mins – 2017 – 3D


 

… WE’VE GOT FUN AND BOARD GAMES

Based upon a children’s picture book from the 80s by Chris Van Allsburg, 1995’s Joe Johnston-directed adventure-fantasy film is fondly remembered by people of a certain age as being a much-watched childhood favourite. It also starred the late, great Robin Williams, which is perhaps one reason why a return to Jumanji was initially greeted with scepticism from the masses. However, Welcome to the Jungle is NOT a modern day reboot which tries to erase the charm of the first film, but a sequel which respectfully nods to and continues the story, expanding upon the world of the mysterious magical game.

… Keep Scuttling!

Central Intelligence (Cinema Review)

15 – 108mins – 2016


 

BETWEEN THE ROCK AND A HART PLACE

Utilizing some truly impressive Captain America-esque CG de-aging, we witness tubby brace-face Robbie Wheirdicht (Dwayne Johnson) hauled out of the showers and humiliated at a pep rally in front of his entire high school. Popular all-round cool kid Calvin Joyner (Kevin Get Hard Hart) is the only one to comfort the naked nerd.

Fast forward two decades, and having long since plunged from his peak of marrying his high school sweetheart (Danielle Nicolet), the man formerly known as the “Golden Jet” is now a bored middle-manager accountant reluctant to attend his school reunion. Accepting a friend request from an unrecognised name, Calvin is totally unaware of what he is letting himself in for…

Having worked out for six hours a day, every day (“Anyone can do it!”) and changed his name, Robbie Wheirdicht has reinvented himself as tattooed man mountain “Bob Stone”. He may still like fanny packs, unicorns and Twilight, but Bob absolutely abhors bullies – oh, and he’s a top CIA agent.

Hart sticks to his successful Ride Along mould of screechy, irritating everyman sidekick, this time dragged along on a top secret undercover spy mission by the amiable-but-deadly peck-flexer who requires his former classmate’s accountancy skills in unlocking satellite codes being sold in a bidding war on the black market.

Directed by We’re The Miller’s Rawson Marshall Thurber, Central Intelligence really sparks to life when the mismatched flip-reversed duo are sharing memories and trading bantz, but the double-crossing, espionage malarkey involving rogue agent the “Black Badger” is so perplexingly conveyed that half the time you’re never sure who to plump for as bullets fly and Amy Ryan’s Agent Harris tries to lure Calvin away from under Bob’s wing.

A tortuous interrogation scene between two purported good guys is particularly tonally awry – a major crux to any comedy is when questions over the moral validity of the joker overwhelms the power of the punchlines. Crucial targets are then missed.

Central IntelligenceA trio of “I never knew they were in this!” big name cameos (who I won’t name here) bring some light relief to the deluge of fisticuffs and shoot-outs, but for all its big, flashy, fast-mouthed fun, much like Calvin Joyner, Central Intelligence never quite lives up to early promise of its full potential.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars

Ride Along 2 (DVD Review)

12 – 97mins – 2016


 

BROTHERS-IN-LAW

“Do you ever listen to the shit that flies out of your mouth?”

Exceeding expectations in much the same manner as its lead character did, 2014’s buddy cop comedy Ride Along was so popular a sequel was inevitable. But how could they continue to bring the bantz now that straight shootin’ “expert on bullshit” Detective James Payton (Ice Cube) has mellowed to his irritating tag-along sidekick Ben Barber’s (Kevin Hart) verbal diarrhea and wised up to his worth?

The answer is to reset this fast-tracked sequel back to the status quo, with James relegating recently-graduated police rookie Ben’s assistance at the climax of the first film to “beginner’s luck.” With Ben’s marriage to James’ sister, Ang (Tika Sumpter), less than a week away, James is still determined to humiliate and undermine the videogame fan who calls himself “Black Hammer,” believing if he allows the try-hard trouble-magnet to accompany him on a case that takes them from Atlanta to Miami, Ben’s dream of becoming a detective will be dashed.

“Why does nobody want to show me respect?!”

From thereon in it’s business as usual in this repeat-quel which does little to upset the prizewinning applecart in bringing more shoot outs, car chases, stakeouts and party-crashing courtesy of the “blentlemen” with the badges, who are accompanied by Miami PD’s thin-lipped Maya Cruz (Olivia Munn) and self-proclaimed “cyber dark-arts God” A.J. (Community goofball Ken Jeong yet again playing to type) in bringing down a villainous drug ring lead by Benjamin Bratt’s cookie-cutter crime lord.

Like a hyperactive cross between The Hangover and Hot Fuzz, Ride Along 2 really shouldn’t work as well as it does. Aside from a freeway car chase reimagined as a pixelated, GTA-style videogame (the farce and the furious!), this is nothing we haven’t seen a thousand times before, and yet I still found myself enjoying the Ride.

Ice Cube’s seasoned peer isn’t as hard-nosed as you’re meant to believe, while grounded motor-mouth Ben really shouldn’t be given as many chances at redemption as he is granted, but watch with beer and mates and Ride Along 2’s lazy plot rehash, clichéd genre tropes, irritating characterisation and minor flaws really do pale in comparison to the laughs it shoots out like a never-ending round of target-homing bullets.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars