Director: Jake Kasdan
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale, Rhys Darby
While it’s sometimes hard to remember in this age where movies are almost expected to have multiple sequels to be successful, there used to be a time when the vast majority were made to be stand alone ventures only. These movies had to get it right the first time, because that’s all there was. 1995’s Jumanji is one of those movies that got it right. It’s a unique and fascinating movie that everyone fortunate enough to have seen it, looks back on with fond memories. It’s also one of the movies that comes to mind when remembering the incredible career of the late Robin Williams.
So when a sequel was announced over 20 years later, it caused more than a little anxiety among fans. However, while it’s not a perfect sequel, it is far better than expected…and a lot of fun. The movie doesn’t officially release until December 20th, but I had a chance to see it a couple weeks early at a special screening for Amazon Prime members.
The same game, updated for a new generation
There are some noticeable changes this time around. The movie is much lighter and has more comedy than the original. Also, instead of the world of Jumanji escaping out of the game, we get to see what happens when players get transported into Jumanji.
When I first saw the trailer, I was annoyed that the movie had moved away from the classic board game, to a more modern video game. Seeing it play out on screen, however, it actually works fairly well. Jumanji taking the form of whatever is most likely to be played in a given time period actually makes the game feel more sinister.
Something else worth noting is the commendable way they worked in elements from the original movie, such as the rhyming directions of the game, as well as the important life lessons the kids learn through playing a game of Jumanji. It helps to make the change of game style believable and consistent with the original.
Choose your characters
Bobby Cannavale plays the villain this time around, and is basically an updated version of Hunter Van Pelt from the original. Overall, the character is boring and forgettable, and has nothing in common with the original Van Pelt other than the name. He does have an useful ability but is still your average, run of the mill baddie who spends the movie yelling things like “Get them!” or “Nowhere left to run!” He is the worst thing about the movie, which is good because he doesn’t have a ton of screen time.
The movie is at its best when it focuses on the unique humor centered around how a group of teenagers would react to being trapped inside a videogame, possessing the avatar bodies of the game’s heroes. The actual teenagers are fairly forgettable, however watching the actors who play the kids in the game avatars is where the fun is.
It’s actually refreshing and entertaining to finally see a Dwayne Johnson who is unsure of himself as a hero. Jack Black is absolutely hilarious as a teenage girl trapped inside of a much older, male professor. Karen Gillan looks fantastic, but correctly takes jabs at the absurdity of the majority of female outfits in video games. Kevin Hart is funny, but makes the same types of jokes he always does. And finally, Nick Jonas works well enough as a teenager trapped inside the pilot character in Jumanji.
I won’t spoil it here but the movie pays a nice homage to Robin Williams as well.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a hilariously fun romp through the jungle of Jumanji. It certainly has several flaws, but if you can enjoy it for what it is, you’ll see it’s just about the best sequel to the original classic we are going to get…and that’s not a bad thing at all.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle gets a score of 8.5 bannana leaves out of 10.