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Soundtrack review: Jumanji: Welcome to the jungle (Henry Jackman – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Jumanji: Welcome to the jungle (Henry Jackman – 2017)

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“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is a 2017 American action adventure comedy film directed by Jake Kasdan and written by Kasdan, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg and Jeff Pinkner, from a story by McKenna. A standalone sequel to Jumanji (1995), the film stars Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, and Bobby Cannavale. The film is also a tribute to Robin Williams, star of the original film, who died in 2014. Four teenagers discover an old video game console and are literally drawn into the game’s jungle setting becoming the adult avatars they chose. Henry Jackman wrote the score.

I loved the fist movie, one of the most enjoyable adventure films of the 90s and even from the trailer this sequel looks like a completely different affair, the cast is so likeable and fun that I’m sure it will be a riot. Henry Jackman is a great composer but has been hit and miss lately, mainly because of his Marvel scores which were generic to me. But this seems like a project he can thrive on. The score opens with “The Jumanji overture” a militaristic sounding cue that dives right into the adventure; this is the kind of theme I can imagine playing during the opening titles where they might show the land where the story will take place. The fanfare and percussion also bring a touch of nostalgia from the bold action scores of the 90s. After a couple of light introductory cues the transition to the jungle is abrupt and enjoyable: an all tribal percussion cue that reminds me how much I enjoyed Jackman’s score for “Captain Phillips”.

I almost have a Pavlovian reaction whenever that exciting fanfare comes along to mark the adventure; it’s as if the composer wrote two completely different scores, the adventurous one that has as crown jewels cues like “The legend of the Jewel” with a sound that surprisingly echoes back to favourite John Williams adventures like “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” and the suspenseful sound of cues like “Out of character” that doesn’t do much for me, not when I’ve been spoiled with that other side. I came here for the adventure so that’s what I want to hear. Every now and then Henry Jackman finds a middle way with playful melodic pieces that are fun to listen to.

When the composer goes for adventure though, it’s balls to the walls action, loud, spectacular, enjoyable and I just want to turn the volume as high as I can when I hear a cue like “The bikers”. I know it’s hard to keep this pace for the duration of the score but damn this is the kind of sparkling music that I was anticipating. I wish there were more cues like this but any adventure must have it’s down moments or tense moments or moments of hiding and Henry Jackman makes sure he covers all of them in his score; this makes the score have highs and lows and I found myself quite often switching the volume while listening to “Jumanji: Welcome to the jungle”. This is Henry Jackman for me, rarely a middle ground, either great scores or lacklustre ones or, in this case, either bombastic fun cues or fillers.

I found a lot to enjoy in “Jumanji: Welcome to the jungle” and I will be able to make my own, shorter playlist of cues to revisit from this score. I can’t wait to hear it in the context of the movie. I enjoyed the most the old school orchestral cues with the fanfares and percussion.

Cue rating: 88 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 30 / 61

Album excellence: 49%

Highlights:
The Jumanji Overture
Into the Jungle
The Legend of the Jewel
The Adventure Begins
The Bikers
The Power of Bravestone
Seaplane McDonough
Albino Rhinos
Retrieving the Emerald
First Kiss
Begin the Climb
Call Out Its Name
An Older Friend

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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