Four high schoolers are about to go on an adventure that will change their lives forever in this sequel/reimagining of the Chris Van Allsburg book.
Spencer Gilman is a video game nerd with many issues. When he ends up in hot water for doing a term paper for popular football player Fridge, he ends up in detention with his former friend. Two young girls, Bethany and Martha, are also in detention as the former refuses to turn off her cell phone during class and the latter had a thing or two to say to the gym teacher during class. The group are tasked with getting magazines ready for a recycling plant when they discover a video game system with the game “Jumanji”.
When the group decides to try the game out, they end up becoming entrapped inside the game as the avatars they have chosen. Spencer becomes Doctor Smolder Bravestone. Fridge becomes Franklin “Mouse” Finbar. Martha becomes Ruby Roundhouse. However, things don’t bode well for Bethany as she becomes the male cartographer Dr. Sheldon Oberon. They learn that they must save Jumanji from the evil Dr. Russell Van Pelt, who had stolen the Jaguar Gem from a shrine that has not only turned Van Pelt evil, but placed a curse upon the island. The group learn they are also tattooed with life gauges, in which when they run out, they will die within the game and in the real world. The group, four different personalities, must learn to work together if they plan to save Jumanji and return home.
The 1995 film Jumanji was quite a fun ride that involved a board game coming to life in the real world with Robin Williams as the film’s hero Alan Parrish. As a matter of fact, the film does pay tribute to the original film, there are mentions of Parrish as well as the fact that the film is set in the same town as the original and the villain’s name once again is Van Pelt. The only difference with the last one is that while the original had Van Pelt as a big game hunter, this Van Pelt is possessed by the curse and has the ability to control animals this time around to his advantage.
The highlight of the film is that the avatars keep the personalities of their real-world counterparts. Alex Wolff’s Spencer is soon transformed into Dwayne Johnson, who despite his misgivings proves to be the brave hero with “smoldering intensity”. If you remember Johnson’s time in a WWE ring, then smoldering intensity is something you know he has perfected. Ser’Darius Blain’s big football star Fridge becomes the more comical and diminutive Mouse, played with his trademark hysterics by Kevin Hart. It is funny once again seeing Johnson and Hart together on screen because their chemistry in Central Intelligence was the true highlight of the film and that chemistry remains great here.
Morgan Turner’s Martha, a sort of recluse who is more of a wallflower becomes the Lara Croft-inspired Ruby Roundhouse, played by Guardians of the Galaxy’s Karen Gillan, who to the beat of “Baby I Love Your Way” begins a sense of “Da-fi” to the mix. Yes, that’s short for Dance Fighting (see Battle B-Boy as the film focuses on this art). However, in the funniest sense to say the least, Madison Iseman’s pompous and self-absorbed Bethany becomes Dr. Oberon, played by Jack Black, in one of his funniest roles to date. In what has to be one of the funniest scenes in the film, Black’s attempt to teach Gillan to be more self-confident and flirt her way to two of Van Pelt’s goons is quite funny.
Nick Jonas provides some great support as Flyleaf, an ace pilot who may have a bit of a secret involving his part in the game. It is a scene involving him where the film pays tribute to the late Robin Williams snf hid character of Alan Parrish. Meanwhile, Bobby Cannavale seems to be perhaps the only issue in his role of Van Pelt. It’s not that he’s not a bad actor, because he is. But the script doesn’t allow him to partake in much of the action, but more acts like a crazed mastermind sending his troops to do all the dirty work and considering the “cut scene” where we see Van Pelt’s greed for power causing the curse, one would think he’s going to be very dangerous when confronted. Granted, it is cool that his character controls animals but at least if he had partaken in some fisticuffs, it would have made him a better villain.
Despite a somewhat lackluster villain who could have benefitted more with the use of fisticuffs with his powers, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is actually a fun tribute to the original with a modern upgrade. Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black truly are fun to watch especially when they have to act out the personalities of their real-world counterparts mixed in with their skills in the video game world. It is definitely a fun adventure that you may just want to check out.
WFG RATING: B-
Columbia Pictures present a Matt Tolmach and Seven Bucks Production in association with Radar Pictures. Director: Jake Kasdan. Producers: Matt Tolmach and William Teitler. Writers: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, and Jeff Pinkner; based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg. Cinematography: Gyula Pados. Editing: Steve Edwards and Mark Helfrich.
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale, Rhys Darby, Alex Wolff, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner.