Director: Jake Kasdan
Cast: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, Nick Jonas, Madison Iseman, Alex Wolff, Morgan Turner, Ser’Darius Blain, Bobby Cannavale, and Rhys Darby.
In Hollywood’s pursuit to remake or reboot every beloved franchise over the age of twenty, a sequel to Jumanji (1995) is actually a thing, and surprisingly, it’s a damn entertaining thing.
Set in the same universe as the original, which starred the late Robin Williams, Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle massively differentiates itself, transforming the iconic board game into a more era-appropriate video game. Thankfully, the change works for this modern day sequel, as a group of students are sucked into the game and the dangers of the jungle. The kids take on the physical appearance and attributes of their avatars, with actors like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan stepping in to play the older versions.
Straight away this opens the door for some great comedic moments, as the leading group of actors are given a chance to play different roles than we might expect, whether it’s Kevin Hart as the tall, tough jock, Karen Gillan as a quirky, shy tomboy or Jack Black portraying a superficial, popular girl. The film draws a lot of its comedy from this situation, and while some of the jokes are obvious or cheap, the actors have enough chemistry and charisma to pull them off. Johnson and Hart are clearly the stars here and having worked together in the past, their chemistry and the interaction between their characters is one of the funnier elements of the film. Karen Gillan delivers a fine performance, although it’s the films ability to call out the portrayal of women in video games that makes the character standout. Overall, it’s Jack Black’s portrayal of a typical self-absorbed teen that manages to steal the show, with most of the more comedic moments coming from his/her interactions with other characters.
As they say, no film is perfect and Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle certainly isn’t the exception. The film frequently seems more focused on building romantic relationships between characters, which hinders the flow of the film and distracts from the more enjoyable comedy and fast-paced action. Of course, this would be worthwhile if it was for a good purpose, but at the end of the day, these relationships are bland, boring, and cliche.
Bobby Cannavale’s villain is undoubtedly the films biggest issue. The villain never feels like he occupies the same world as the other characters, and fails to intimidate as a blockbuster baddie. In fact, Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is at its best when the characters are forced to overcome insane challenges so you could remove Cannavale from the film entirely, and the overall story would be unaffected and possibly more enjoyable.
Injecting new life into a beloved franchise isn’t an easy thing to do but Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle has pulled off the impossible. The film manages to transport fans back into the wacky world that was first introduced in 1995, and even though the film is held back by multiple issues, it’s filled with enough action-packed comedy to warrant a fun trip to the cinema.