Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Review
The insane world of Jumanji returns with a quasi-sequel in the form of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and while it offers a different take on the Jumanji universe than the original, it still packs plenty of entertainment, laughs, and a few lessons on life. There is a nod in Jumanji 2 to the original, but that’s about it, so you don’t have to be a franchise expert to fully appreciate the sequel, which I have found to be highly entertaining and very funny. So much so, that I think it may be better than the original, which is tough to say considering that Robin Williams brought the first one to life, but with its ensemble cast of superstars, the follow up film does manage to stand out. I’ll have to rewatch the original again now that I’ve seen the sequel, but I just don’t remember it being as funny as the 2017 version, which may be blasphemous to Williams fans, but I can’t remember laughing as loud and as hard as I did while watching the sequel when I first watched the original.
Much like the original Jumanji, Jumanji 2 as I’ll reference it in this review, involves a mystical game that can transport its players to a fantastical jungle world full of flesh eating animals and Mad Max inspired bandits, which are hellbent on keeping players from completing their game ending mission. Unlike the original though, the game in the sequel is presented as a video game versus a board game, which was done to fall in line with the times the sequel is set in. A group of four distinct high school students that resemble the Breakfast Club — complete with a jock, a nerd, a pretty valley girl, and an outcast girl — stumble upon the game while in detention. After choosing their video game characters they are all sucked into the game and take on the roles of their chosen avatars, which quite frankly is what makes Jumanji 2 so damn hilarious.
The plot is fun and predictable, and offers up some great action sequences and majestic shots, but it’s the interaction of the characters that makes the humor stand out, and for that matter makes their journey together so enjoyable to watch. The nerd boy is turned into The Rock, the jock is turned into a short backpack wearing sidekick, the outcast girl is turned into a deadly bombshell, while the pretty valley girl is turned into an overweight middle-aged man. These transformations alone provide all sorts of laugh-out-loud moments as each of them try to embrace their new bodies and roles while trying to survive the perils of the Jumanji game world.
More than half of the fun of this film is found in the interactions between the characters as their avatars. The Rock’s character Spencer, and Kevin Hart’s Fridge character absolutely kill as an on-screen comedy duo. The dynamic between a nerd in Superman’s body coupled with a jock reduced to his pint-sized sidekick offers up all sorts of engaging interactions between these characters, while also helping them to work on their real world beef of no longer being friends. Hart and Johnson easily are meant to be together in comedic films, and while their other comedy was just okay (Central Intelligence), their turn in Jumanji 2 could be its biggest highlight.
While Hart and Johnson’s onscreen antics get the most attention, I have to say that their two cast mates are no slouches either. I would even say that Jack Black’s performance may be the best in the entire film. This is thanks to the fact that his in-game character is being played by a pretty valley girl, so the whole time we see Black’s character on screen, he’s acting him in a way that would resemble a valley girl being trapped inside the body of a chubby middle-aged man. Black expertly channels this valley girl in his performance, and over time you truly do believe that he’s really a teenage beauty that is more concerned with posting on social media than the perils she is facing in the game world of Jumanji.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Karen Gillan’s performance, who plays the badass redheaded bombshell character that is being played by a teenage outcast girl in the game world, is also one full of laughs and personal growth. Watching a beautiful person act like she has never been pretty or popular provides its own set of laughs. There’s one scene in particular where Gillan’s character has to learn to flirt, and the resulting performance is one of the funnier bits in the film. Gillan also plays her character perfectly, because while she looks amazing and is full of physical talents, Gillan still plays her as the outcast teen girl, so there’s plenty of self-doubt woven into the fabric of this female lead.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle may not offer up a mind blowing plot that is full of twists and turns, but it does offer up plenty of laughs and great character moments thanks to its body swap plot mechanic and talented cast. It’s a very entertaining film that doesn’t require much brain power to enjoy, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a dumbed down affair. It’s actually packed full with heart and emotions, and plenty of life lessons that all teens eventually learn, so I found it to be highly enjoyable on all fronts. Not to mention that the performances by Hart, Johnson, Gillan, and Black are all spot on, and each provides at least one memorable moment that you will be laughing about with your friends after you leave your screening. If you just need a fun movie to provide a bit of entertainment in your life, then look no further than Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
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