Hot Take: I expected to hate it. Didn’t hate it.
There was something that didn’t sit right with the idea of another Jumanji film. Maybe it was the passing of Robin Williams or maybe it was the fact that I just didn’t think the original Jumanji was all that great but I certainly wasn’t looking forward to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. It took some time to settle in and no one will mistake it for cinematic genius but Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle manages to be very entertaining and even laugh out loud funny at times. It’s misplaced summer popcorn flick that found its way into the winter season.
How Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle didn’t do itself any favors was with an opening act ripped directly from The Breakfast Club. The four main characters in their teenage form all find their way to detention and while there uncover a video game version of Jumanji. Of course, the four of them decide to play it rather than complete the arduous task of pulling staples out of old magazines. (We’ve already seen the video game teleport Alex Vreeke inside after he refuses to play it in board game form but it transforms into a video game.) Nerdy gamer Spencer Gilpin (Alex Wolff) becomes Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), football jock Anthony “Fridge” Johnson (Ser’Darius Blain) becomes Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), pretty and popular Bethany Walker (Madison Iseman) becomes Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon (Jack Black) and smart, outspoken Martha Kaply (Morgan Turner) becomes Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). The four quickly discover they are trapped in a video game and only have 3 lives to survive the game and make it out of Jumanji. Their video game personas are the polar opposite of their real life counterparts but come with video game strengths and weaknesses and the 4 must come together to figure out the game and survive. Eventually, they run into Vreeke who is Jefferson “Seaplane” McDonough (Nick Jonas) in the game and the 5 must survive Jumanji and break the curse.
Silly? Yes. Even stupid at times. Yet it moves at such a rapid pace and the presence of Johnson who is charisma personified (hence that smoldering strength Dr. Bravestone has) supplemented by strong comedic performances from Hart and Black and Gillan and Jonas hold their own. Gillan has the challenge of wearing practically nothing the entire film since she’s the stereotypical video game heroine which requires her stomach to be exposed the entire time. Dare I say it? Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle might be better than the original Jumanji. Gasp! (Note: From me, that’s not saying much since I’m not a big fan of the original.)
Amongst the highly competitive winter movie season where its mostly Oscarbait and Star Wars, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle holds its own and makes for a welcome popcorn flick that surprisingly manages to entertain for most of the film. It’s easy to watch albeit mostly unmemorable but does bring a few laughs and doesn’t linger. It’s much better than the last time Johnson and Hart teamed up and from top to bottom, the quintet of actors show excellent chemistry that elevates the effort. If it weren’t for the opening problems, I’d likely be finding myself thinking even more highly of this film than I currently do. Sure, it’s a throwaway but it’s a good throwaway.
You wax nostalgic for the Jumanji concept and have fond memories of how the childhood you felt when you watched it.
The original was overrated and you’d rather keep up with the films that might actually matter come Awards night.