Director: Jake Kasdan
Run Time: 1h 59m
I was fully expecting to hate this Jumanji sequel. But I was delightfully proven wrong.
In 1996, apparently board games were like so last year. So when Jumanji finds its way in the hands of a metal-head gamer, it transforms into a video game to better grab his attention. We all know what that means. 20 years later, four kids are sent to detention where the game resurfaces. Instead of serving their sentence, they decide they can play the game to pass the time. They are each sucked into the game and become the characters they chose on Jumanji’s welcome screen. Nerdy Spencer (Alex Wolff) became buff Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson). Athletic “Fridge” (Ser’Darius Blain) became tiny “Mouse” (Kevin Hart). Loner Martha (Morgan Tuner) became bad*** Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). And popular beauty Bethany (Madison Iseman) became the curvaceous Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black). Enhanced with unique skills — and weaknesses — the group must navigate the game to reach their goal: find a giant emerald and return it to the Jaguar statue before the evil Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale) gets it.
Never did I imagine that I would laugh as much as I did watching Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. I was actually angry when I heard they were making another Jumanji movie because I was so fond of the original. Remaking a Robin Williams movie seemed distasteful. But my husband wanted to see it so we went. And we laughed. And we loved every minute.
First and foremost, the acting in this movie was spectacular. The avatar actors — Johnson, Hart, Gillan, and Black — were playing the game characters and the teenagers at the same time. And no one nailed their performance quite like Jack Black. He was a popular, seemingly shallow blonde chick trapped inside an “overweight middle-aged man.” It was magnificent. But honestly, they were all really great.
Because this movie is technically a sequel to Jumanji, there was a lovely nod to Alan Parrish (and our beloved Robin Williams). The characters discover his jungle hut, and the elephant played an important role in the plot. (If you recall, the elephant was Alan’s token in the board game version.) I was curious how they’d pay ode to Parrish/Williams and I think they did a wonderful job without going over-the-top or cheapening the reference.
As much fun as this film was, there was still some things wrong with it. However all of my quarrels boil down to the same overall topic: the evolution of the game. In converting itself to a video game there were some key changes made that weren’t as fun as the original. For instance, the kids are all immediately sucked into the game instead of having that be a consequence of a single turn. I also didn’t like the change in our villain, Van Pelt. He went from being a trigger-happy poacher to a safari mob boss with anger issues. He was way scarier in 1995. And there is also the issue with “lives” and the guidelines for how those work in this video game versus every other video game ever. I don’t want to give too much of that point away, but it didn’t fully make sense in the grand scheme of video game rules.
Having said all of that, the fact that I can count exactly three issues I had with the entire film is pretty significant.
None of these characters came close to the magic of Robin Williams, but collectively I liked them better than the original. Their adventure was a lot of fun and I can easily see Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle finding a spot on my movie shelf. Just keep in mind, this is rated PG-13 so it is not as family-friendly as the original. (Plenty of d*ck jokes for the big kids that the little ears won’t appreciate.)
Because this is more of a grown-up Jumanji, I’m going to offer a fun jungle adventure for the adults: Tropic Thunder.