In the year 1996, about a year after the events of the first Jumanji film, the mysterious and deadly board game is found washed up on a beach by a jogger. He takes the game home and gives it to his son, Alex, who discards it because “no one plays board games anymore”. Disheartened (I guess is the word I’m looking for), the game transforms into a console and cartridge overnight so that it can claim its next victim. Alex wakes up and plays the game only to be sucked in and never seen again… Fast forward 20 years and four teenagers are cleaning out a basement at school for detention. They find the game, start to play it, and they get sucked in too.
Sounds familiar? Yeah, the plot line of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is pretty thin however is the performances of the actors, the comedy and the self-awareness that really makes the film stand out. When I first heard that they were making a new Jumanji film, I thought that it would end up being a cash grab. Then, I saw the trailer and where they wanted to take the franchise and it piqued my interest. The film takes the characteristics of the game and modernises it to create something that feels fresh but at the same time, familiar. The video game aspect was an interesting take and it led to some good jokes about NPCs and other video game cliches. I say the plot line is thin, and it is, but at the same time, a lot of video games, especially the older ones, have very short plots. It’s usually “get this thing to that thing” or “save the world” (hint: they may have something to do with the movie).
Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black and Kevin Hart play the video game avatars of the four students played by, Alex Wolff, Morgan Turner, Madison Iseman and Ser’Darius Blain. The actors both portray the characteristics of the characters really well. The standouts to me were Karen Gillan nailing a Morgan Turner impression and Jack Black playing a teenage girl in a middle-aged over-weight man’s body. While the characters felt a little weak at first, you have a nerd, a football player, a popular girl and a shy bookworm, they grow a little through the film and learn to trust each other. So there is a small amount of character development.
Rounding out the cast is Nick Jonas as Alex(the kid that went missing in 1996)’s avatar in the game. Bobby Cannavale as Van Pelt, the evil explorer who wants to control Jumanji and Rhys Darby as the game’s guide. I thought the cast all did good jobs and you could tell how much fun (especially the in-game characters) were having on set.
The film is surprisingly good. The jokes are funny and the actors and the chemistry between them is light and fun. The action is good even though some of the CGI animals looked a little rushed and fake. There are also some nice little hints to the original film.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a standalone sequel in the Jumanji universe, you don’t have to have seen the original (although do, it’s a great film). It’s refreshing to see something that isn’t rebooting or remaking a story, while some could consider it a soft reboot, it is also very much a sequel. I enjoyed this film but I don’t see any new films in the universe for a while. This film is very similar thematically to the original so they would have to go in a very different direction for a sequel so the franchise doesnt go stale.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle: Surprisingly, Above Average