“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” has some references to the original, but it takes place inside the game rather in the real world.
While the previous family adventure comedy (1995’s “Jumanji”, which starred the late Robin Williams) gave a board game life, this more mature sequel puts a 90s video game at the center of the action.
“Jumanji II” (I try to pretend “Zathura” never happened) is actually a collage of numerous movies – some classics, others, not so much:
- “The Breakfast Club” – Four high school students (the nerd, the football player, the popular, pretty girl and the socially awkward, quiet girl) get sent to detention on the same day and bond. (I have not actually seen this one)“Pixels” and “Wreck-It Ralph” – our heroes get sucked into saving the digital and real world
- “Temple of Doom” –a quest to retrieve a green diamond and put it into the eye of a giant jaguar statue.
- “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” – This 2012 sequel also starred Dwayne Johnson and had a similar jungle setting and character clothing.
- “Central Intelligence” – Johnson and Hart reunite following that 2016 action comedy, and they bicker here just as much.
I was curious to see how the story would play out, and if the script from four writers and director Jake Kasdan (“Sex Tape”) would take any risks. Not really.
All four of the main actors work great together, while the fact that they’re required to speak and interact as teenagers is amusing at times but others it’s almost corny to watch. Sometimes Johnson is acting nerdy, other times he’s acting brave (the main characteristic of his game persona). But all the time we’re simply watching The Rock. The only cast member who plays it straight, and therefore provides some realism, is Nick Jonas. He plays a former game player who’s been stuck in Jumanji for 20 years, unable to escape.
The new cast have quite a few scenes were they rift off each other The Rock’s (Spencer) and Kevin Hart’s (Fridge) are lead and sidekick due to this dynamic they are constantly going at each other. Jack Black’s (Bethany) deals with the rather uncomfortable situation of a young woman being stuck in a mans body.
Karen Gillan’s(Martha) shares in some of the Rocks action scenes and also provides some of the awkward scenes as well. Before the movie was even released there were complaints about her clothing or lack there of and even her character addresses this in the movie.
There are a couple nice touches for gamers, including (what I hope are) the intentionally underwhelming visual effects, which replicate the look of video games of the 90s. Bobby Cannavale plays the villain. While he’s creepy he seems more like Gollum here only after the MacGuffin
If you haven’t seen or don’t remember much of the original “Jumanji”, you can certainly follow “Welcome to the Jungle”. Granted this is more of a comedy given who’s in it, I still hold the original to heart.
Rated PG-13 for adventure action, suggestive content and some language
On VIDANGEL and CLEARPLAY
My RATING B-