“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is a standalone sequel to the 1995 cult hit that starred Robin Williams. This time, instead of the board game coming into the real-world, four teens are transported into the jungles of Jumanji (now a video game, because, 21st century) and must beat the game in order to escape. Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas and Bobby Cannavale star as Jake Kasdan directs.
I only saw the original “Jumanji” one time when I was 10 at a sleepover, but I remember not being overly enamored by it. In fact, despite its cult status, the film did not receive positive reviews back in 1995 but has since grown to develop a following, mostly due to Robin Williams. When this 2017 film was announced, some people were afraid it was a remake and others just saw it as a pointless sequel. But since the cast looked solid and I had no real attachment to the original film I was able to walk into this with an open mind and (overall) was pleased.
Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson have starred together before, like in last year’s “Central Intelligence,” and have also done Instagram videos from set that shows that they have great chemistry. They again play off each other well, and much like “Central Intelligence” Hart is a little toned-down from his normal hyper self which was refreshing to see. They quip and insult each other but are good in their hearts, and continue to show why they’re two of the more likable and bankable names in Hollywood.
Jack Black hasn’t been in too much the last five years but it was great to see him back in a starring role, and he arguably steals the show; I feel if ten years ago you were told that “Jumanji” was getting a sequel the first thing you would assume is Jack Black was going to be the star of it. Black plays a popular teenage girl who has been transported into the game and placed in the avatar of “an overweight middle-aged man” and he walks a great line between effeminate stereotype and still having the Black mannerisms that he has become known for.
I love Bobby Cannavale, he has shown that he can be funny and charming in things like “Danny Collins” but dark and serious in the likes of “Boardwalk Empire,” but he is a complete waste here. He plays the film’s villain and he is one-note and cheesy in the worst ways and given nothing to do. Nick Jonas pops up and he shows that he has solid acting chops, although I’m sure playing the rugged cool guy wasn’t too much of a stretch of his acting chops.
The film’s plot is pretty one-note: the characters must go from one point of the jungle to the other to return a stolen jewel. I won’t fault the film for its simplicity too much, although the video game-style “level progression” narrative does create some awkward pacing at points.
Also, as with 2016’s “Ghostbusters” reboot, the film is directed by a man who is normally making $30 million R-rated comedies, so suddenly giving him a $100 million blockbuster to helm will result in some stilted action sequences and bad special effects (on more than one occasion the green screen is painfully noticeably bad).
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” has absolutely no reason to exist, and is related to the 1995 film by title only, but it is a safe, family-friendly adventure that does do a solid job at entertaining you in-the-moment. If anything, it is just a showcase for some funny people to do some funny things and have you desire to see them in future projects together but as we approach the end of 2017–a year that has been so divisive and at times hard to swallow–maybe bonding over some laughs isn’t the worst thing.
Critics Rating: 6/10