“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” stars Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, and Bobby Cannavale. Released on December 20, 2017, the film is about four teenagers who get sucked into a video game and must work together to survive.
The film is directed by Jake Kasdan, who also directed films such as Zero Effect, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Bad Teacher, and Sex Tape. It serves as a standalone sequel to the 1995 film, Jumanji, and it is based on the 1981 children’s book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg. With Christmas fast approaching, Hollywood is in no rush to release at least seven new films for me to look at, and what better way to start off this holiday movie-going experience than a follow-up to the 1990s family favorite? When the project was first announced as a remake, a lot of people speculated that it was too soon for Hollywood to remake Jumanji after the death of Robin Williams, who played Alan Parrish in the original. Yes, they also mentioned that a Jumanji remake was unnecessary like the other remakes and reboots that no one wanted. It was later confirmed that the film will be a continuation of the original, which is a sigh of relief for most people. I have heard of Jumanji for quite some time, which was one of the reasons why I was interested in seeing this film. Add in a suitable cast and a concept that sticks close to the original while keeping things modern and fresh, and you get a fun and comedic adventure that people may or may not enjoy this holiday season. How fun, you ask? Let’s jump inside the game and find out.
The story takes place 20 years after the events of Jumanji, with four high school teenagers stuck in detention. When they discover a mysterious video game cartridge, they accidentally get sucked into a dangerous jungle world. To make things even more strange, they get stuck inside the bodies of the avatars that they’ve chosen. In order to return to the real world, they must learn to trust one another and work as a team, all while using their skills both from the avatars and from outside the game. One of the things that I should give this film credit for, even before watching it, was the direction Jake Kasdan took for the sequel. It’s not a complete rehash of the original where people played the Jumanji board game and stuff from the jungle appeared in the real world. In this film, we get to see people inside the Jumanji world for the first time. What’s even better was the fact that the game evolved itself in order to blend in with the modern era in which people have their eyes set on cell phones and video games. So now we are looking at Jumanji as an old-school video game cartridge that looks like an unreleased movie tie-in game for the Nintendo 64. It’s pretty refreshing, to say the least, but what about the entire film in general? Well, it isn’t perfect, but it definitely met my expectations. The story was nicely told in a way that respects the original without being overly similar to the first film’s plot. It does have some predictable and cliched moments here and there, but when you look past these obvious flaws and take that idiotic “unnecessary remake or sequel” criticism out of your head, you might have a good time watching it. The main cast that portrayed the teenagers’ avatars were really fun to watch and the chemistry between them was handled extremely well. The young actors that played the teenagers in the real world were fine, but it was the “avatar” actors that made the film a joy to watch. Dwayne Johnson took a somehow different direction in portraying the usual tough-guy persona that he’s known for in his earlier roles, and the result is pretty darn amusing. Kevin Hart is basically his usual Hart-self without getting too over-the-top, and Karen Gillan, wow, I could not believe how gorgeous she was when she’s not in her space alien make-up. Jack Black was my main highlight out of the entire cast. He’s basically the entire joke in the film as he is portraying a pretty high school teenage girl in a man’s body. Say what you want about Black, but this is by far the most hilarious thing I have seen from him. Bobby Cannavale portrays the sequel’s version of Van Pelt, who is responsible for putting the world of Jumanji in danger. I like Cannavale, but his character is just a cliched antagonist who only serves as an obstacle for the heroes. Oh, and Nick Jonas is in the film too. He plays another avatar who assists the main characters on their journey. Just a friendly reminder to the ladies who adore Jonas. The action, the visuals, and the humor were both handled pretty well, with the latter being the glue that holds everything together. The humor mostly comes from Jack Black’s character and the video game references, and the balance between those two and the storyline was a delight to witness.
Overall, aside from its predictable plot points and a cliched villain, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” offers a surprisingly fresh and entertaining upgrade from the 1990s original. The cast was a blast to watch, the action and the world of Jumanji were suitable, and the humor was hilarious all the way through. Sure, it’s another unnecessary sequel, but when you remove that type of criticism out of your brain for at least two hours and watch it for what it was, you might have fun with it too. If you like the first Jumanji film, there’s a good chance you’ll like this one as well, along with a brief reference to the late Robin Williams' character.