The original Jumanji is not an untouchable movie. The attempt at rebooting a 22 year old movie won’t particularly ruin anyone’s childhood. Yet, news about the reboot was still annoying when it was announced. The original movie carried a sense of wonder and fun that was bolstered by Robin Williams in a great role.
To keep my sanity, I’m going to just refer to this new movie as Jumanji and not Welcome to the Jungle, because well, that title is really pretty awful.
The new Jumanji is actually a direct sequel to the 1995 movie. The cursed board game is found in 1996, but neglected as cool ’90s teens wouldn’t care for board games. The all-knowing game then transforms itself into a game cartridge hoping to entice slacker victims.
Fast forward 20 years and a new Breakfast Club finds themselves in detention. These teens are the nerd Spencer (Alex Wolff), the popular Bethany (Madison Iseman), the jock Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) and the sarcastic outsider Martha (Morgan Turner). Through ridiculous circumstance, they find themselves sucked into the Jumanji video game and must save the world of Jumanji if they ever hope to make it back home.
The movie and the premise up to this point feel quite useless. However, once these people land in Jumanji, the movie becomes something else entirely. They are transported to the jungle in their anti-type avatars and this becomes a somehow hilarious comedy.
The Rock headlines this movie because of course he does. He is nothing if not charismatic. Thankfully, it’s a fun and original part because he’s playing a gawky nerd in a giant’s body. While he may have a copious amount of strength, he doesn’t quite know what to do with it and he still scares easily.
The joke here is that every character is reverse-type. This is almost done to death, but never quite killed because every actor goes against what you’d expect from them. Kevin Hart is the exception. His avatar character is angry that he’s so small and whiny. So, basically he’s Kevin Hart.
Karen Gillan plays a certified butt-kicker, but her inner personality can’t help but wonder why she’s in such revealing clothes. Counter to her level of confidence, Jack Black steals the show playing a prissy teenage girl. Once again, the joke is tantamount to beating a dead horse, but it continues to be funny.
Jumanji is a movie that never once takes itself too seriously. It is a silly version of the game Uncharted, complete with a ridiculous villain and goons that always appear out of nowhere. Because it’s not asking you to do anything other than laugh or shrug it off, it works. Honestly, that level of mental requirement is most of The Rock’s filmography.
A big downside to Jumanji is that it is so close to being a great kids movie, but went for the PG-13 rating instead. Much of the content may fly over kids’ heads, but it’s a little annoying regardless.
I was pleasantly surprised by Jumanji. It has nice nods to the original movie and does not tarnish its legacy at all. B