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Monday, December 25, 2017

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Downsizing / Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Dearest Blog: Saturday I kicked off the busy Christmas weekend with Downsizing and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.
First on the docket, Downsizing.
In the interest of saving the planet, scientists perfect a process that reduces humans to a fraction of their size.
Ladies and gentlemen: I didn't hate this movie, and that's far better than anything I expected to be able to say about it. At least as far as my reaction, Downsizing reminded me of Collateral Beauty: I suspect it isn't a very good movie, but I liked it maybe better than it deserves.
First, a few of the problems. Downsizing clears two hours by a quarter, and that's just too long for as slow as it gets in places. In the film's defense, I'll admit I was never *quite* bored, but the length is cumbersome. Matt Damon, generally a pretty likable if unspectacular actor, somehow misses the mark in the lead, failing to earn much sympathy for a character who struggles mightily to be a good guy and do the right thing. For the second week in a row, I also had to endure Laura Dern's presence in a movie, thankfully, this time very briefly. Downsizing feels like a "message" movie, but ultimately muddles too many messages for any of them to have much impact.
Now, the good news: Downsizing does boast a pair of extraordinary performances, from Christoph Waltz, who leaves any movie better for having him, and from Hong Chau, who steals the show with a moving and powerful turn. Downsizing is quite funny at times, though the the whole feels tinged with the natural melancholy of irreversible choices. If the movie has one message that ultimately does hit home, it's the importance of being honest with ourselves and accepting the real reasons we do the things we do.
Downsizing clocks in at 135 minutes and is rated R for "language including sexual references, some graphic nudity, and drug use." (There are penises a-plenty in this movie, a fact I mention only because it is so unusual. If you're not okay with that sort of thing, take a pass.)
Downsizing is a confused morality tale that's more entertaining than expected. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Downsizing gets five.
Next on my agenda: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
Four high schoolers are sucked out of detention and into the world of an old video game, where their avatars must play for their very lives.
Dear reader(s), full disclosure: I have no special affection for the original Jumanji, so I was never as appalled as the Internet-at-large over the idea of a remake/reboot/sequel. However you may feel about the original, I suggest you give the fun, funny 2017 version a try; I don't think you'll be sorry.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle has end-to-end action and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black have great chemistry and do a remarkable job of channeling their real-world, younger selves. It's a testament to the four youngsters--Alex Wolff, Ser'Darius Blain, Morgan Turner, and Madison Iseman--that you'll actually miss them when they're replaced by their more famous "avatars." Johnson leads with his usual easy charm; it would be impossible not to enjoy a film with him in the lead. (Yes, I even liked Tooth Fairy!) Bobby Cannavale chews the scenery in a terrific turn as the picture's primary baddie, and Karen Gillan only gets more and more amazing with every movie. The movie's effects are solid, and a lively score by Henry Jackman perfectly underscores all the action. The crowd at my screening broke into applause multiple times over the course of the film.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle runs 119 minutes and is rated PG13 for "adventure action, suggestive content, and some language."
It can be a hard pill to swallow when the things we love reach the age of being re-done for a new generation, but Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle got a better reaction from my theater than The Last Jedi, Justice League, and Thor...combined. It's an action-packed family comedy with a little something for everyone. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle gets eight.
Dear reader(s), I hope you enjoy these final, festive days of December, and I'll look forward to seeing you at the movies.
Until next time...

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