Director: Jake Kasdan
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Nick Jonas, Alex Wolff, Rhys Darby
Robin Williams’ first Jumanji film had its moments but I wouldn’t call it a classic like many people are inclined to do. It’s not in the same league as some of his other work. Films like Good Morning Vietnam, Goodwill Hunting, One Hour Photo, Aladin and even Mrs. Doubtfire are all much better. That said, Jumanji achieved something of a cult status and it was no wonder that people were a bit worried when it was announced that Jake Kasdan (son of famous Star Wars writer, Lawrence Kasdan) was going to be helming a Jumanji sequel/reboot starring none other than The Rock himself, Mr. Dwayne Johnson.
That said, they needn’t have worried because Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is a very good family movie, full of heart, humour, action and love for the original film. I actually can’t remember enjoying a family movie more than Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle over the past few years. Maybe it’s just my love and admiration for Dwayne Johnson and his incredible pecs that make me a sucker for anything he’s in. Although, if that’s really the case, then I wouldn’t have hated last year’s Baywatch as much as I did. That was easily 2017’s worst movie of the year, closely followed by Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets, Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Ghost In The Shell (I was lucky enough to have missed the Emoji Movie…).
Why am I wearing half a shirt and short shorts in the JUNGLE?
The film’s plot is a relatively simple one all things considered. The film starts off in 1996 with the infamous board game, Jumanji, being discovered by a runner on the beach who proceeds to take it home and give it to his video game enthusiast son who’s not overly impressed with the gift saying the words, “who plays board games nowadays.” [A quick caveat here – I still play board games.] Back to Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle’s plot. Upon hearing these words, the board game turns itself into a video game, very 2000s, and the boy proceeds to play the game and, of course, gets sucked in.
Cut to the present day, four teenagers end up in detention, Breakfast Club style, and are forced to clean up a pretty messy storage room by their principle. This is where they happen upon the now rather dated video game and its console and instead of cleaning the room, they decide to play the mysterious game. Wel, they inevitably get sucked into the game and find that they’ve changed into the avatars they had chosen.
The geeky Spencer is now the buff, handsome and heroic Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Johnson). The football jock Anthony “Fridge” Johnson is now Franklin “Mouse” Finbar, a short zoologist played by Kevin Hart. The shy, introvert yet very clever Martha Kaply finds herself in the body of the gorgeous and kickass Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) and the high school’s queen bee and Instagram obsessed Bethany Walker is trapped in the overweight body of the male cartographer, Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon (Jack Black).
This is a video game, which means we have special skills.
They are then told by Rhys Darby’s NPC (non-player character), Russel Van Pel, that they have to work together in order to get the jewel called the Jaguar’s Eye back to where it belongs to save Jumanji and beat the game.
Jumanji 2’s (I’m going to call it that from now on) great strength is in its cast. Dwayne Johnson is perfect as the geeky guy trapped inside the body of a seriously buff dude. He’s also got impeccable comedic timing and gets to really flex those muscles in this film, as well as his actual muscles. He’s backed up by a brilliant cast who are all on form. Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart and Nick Jonas are all wonderful, yet it’s Jack Black who really steals the show and the laughs. His depiction of a teenage girl trapped inside Jack Black’s body is hilarious. He really has fun with the role and demonstrates that this is what he’s best at.
The film also moves along at a steady pace and is full of action-packed set pieces, silliness and funny dialogue. It’s easily one of the best video games movies ever made which isn’t actually based on a video game. Similar movies in this category include Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and Edge Of Tomorrow (otherwise known as Live. Die. Repeat for some reason).
NOO! I’m an over-weight middle-aged man!
As I mentioned before, Jumanji 2 is a very enjoyable family movie and I highly recommend you go and see it with your kids and/or parents. There are however some slightly slower moments most of which involve the younger cast. I found myself wanting to spend much more time in Jumanji with their avatar characters and found the scenes in the real world to be a little bit tedious (reality just sucks). That said, I did enjoy the nods to The Breakfast Club and I do think that we’ll be seeing more from the likes of Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Ser’Darius Blain and Morgan Turner in the future. They’re all very accomplished actors already.
I think it’s more the fact that the scenes taking place within Jumanji are just so vibrant, action-packed and funny that it made the rest feel a little bit slow in comparison. Yet, all of this to say that I really enjoyed Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle and I think it offers something for everyone.