Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

A sequel to 1995’s Jumanji isn’t a movie people were salivating for. Fans are protective of their childhood movies and there’s also the passing of Robin Williams that makes Jumanji feel untouchable.

However, if you’re going to do a follow-up to Jumanji, you’ll need some big names – enter Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, two of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

Of course this updated version of Jumanji involves an updated version of the game. Four high school kids – Spencer, Fridge, Bethany, and Martha stumble upon the Jumanji video game during detention. They’re sucked into the game and become the adult avatars they chose – equipped with all of their avatar’s strengths and weaknesses.

Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) is an archaeologist and explorer – think Indiana Jones with more muscle. Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black) is a cartographer and the only person who can see the map of Jumanji. Ruby Roundhouse (Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan) is a soldier and dance fighter. Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart) is a zoologist and weapons carrier.

In order to get back to the real world, the four must work together to beat the game. How do you beat the game? Well, they have to travel through the treacherous jungle to take a big green gem known as the “Jaguar’s Eye” and put it back in the  Jaguar statue to save Jumanji from an evil explorer named Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale), he wants to use the gem to control the animals of Jumanji.

Anyone that saw 2016’s Central Intelligence (or any of their press tours) knows Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart have great chemistry together. The two play off each other so well. Johnson is known for his action and Hart known for his comedy, yet the two blend their strengths with their bigger-than-life personalities to make very entertaining movies. This time, the mega stars are at their best playing two lifelong friends grappling with being friends in high school. They nail the bizarre dynamics and the frustrations of high school friendships.

Karen Gillan continues to have an amazing onscreen presence. She’s known for her role as Nebula in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. Hopefully, this is the first step into making Gillan a household name.

The biggest laughs come via Jack Black as Sheldon aka Bethany. Black plays a vain high school girl stuck in an overweight man’s body. Black uses his excellent comedic timing to deliver a few great one-liners. Not to mention there are plenty of callbacks to Sheldon being a high school girl stuck in a man’s body.

Jumanji is as straightforward fun action comedy can be. It’s not trying to say anything about a particular subject or have some deeper meaning. There’s a little bit about friendships and being comfortable with who you are, but it never comes at the expense of the action or comedy.

The best part of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – it never tries to be more than what it is. It’s heavy on the action and  and heavy on the comedy for 1hr 59mins. It’s also the most clever use of a video game in film since 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Audiences originally groaned at the idea of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart making a Jumanji movie, and they churned out a pretty entertaining film. At this point, I’d let those two remake Citizen Kane.

Grade: B