Growing up in the 90's I had a deep love and appreciation for the original 'Jumanji' when it was first released back in 1995. However revisiting the film without the nostalgia-goggles on some 20 years later, it's easy to see the film remains entertaining but doesn't quite hold up the way I remembered.
So I certainly didn't feel betrayed when a sequel was announced, yet once I saw the trailers for the upcoming release, I wasn't excited either. In fact I didn't actually plan on reviewing this and intended to dismiss it altogether until I realized it was still #1 at the box office despite being released five weeks ago.
In fact it's earned more than $315 million in the U.S. alone so far. So I figured I might as well check it out.
Despite thinking this was a reboot of the series, it's actually a direct sequel to the original- picking up immediately after the first film ends. We then cut to present day when four high school students end up in detention where they stumble upon a 90's video game called 'Jumanji.'
For those unfamiliar with the world of 'Jumanji,' in the first film a magical board game essentially torments its players by releasing a host of dangers into the real world- from stampedes to hunters- that can only be stopped by finishing the game. But twenty years later, kids don't want to play board games, so this time it's a video game.
Once sucked into the game, each is transformed into character avatars and for the remainder of the film our high schoolers are played by Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan,and Jack Black. Once our leads are in place, 'Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle' actually becomes a fun time at the movies.
The cast has great chemistry and the body-switch formula, which I thought would get old fast, is fairly clever and quite funny. I have to admit, I thought this was going to be a little painful to sit through, but I genuinely had a good time.
Most of the credit goes to the actors and director Jake Kasdan who keeps the plot moving along quickly while introducing creative video-game plot mechanics. Certain side characters in the game for instance are given limited dialogue and simply repeat information similar to non-player characters in a video game. Our heroes are also equipped with special powers and weaknesses.
I did expect this movie to be as family-friendly as the first, but the filmmakers have opted to go the PG-13 route. So while it may be a bit too risque for some kids, I think this is one of the more entertaining family films in a while. It was just fun. I can't say it's particularly smart or that I'll even remember it a month from now, but for two hours, I was entertained and I found it worth the price of admission. I give 'Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" a B.