Directed by Jake Kasdan
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Jack Black
While cleaning up in detention, a group of four students find themselves transported into a video game version of Jumanji (an evolution of the board game from the first film). Given avatars at odds with their actual teenage forms, the group must find the mystic “Eye of the Jaguar”, and save the jungle kingdom of Jumanji. However the avatars of intrepid explorer Dr Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), gorgeous commando Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), diminutive wise-cracking zoologist Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), and portly cartographer Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon (Jack Black) are so different to the student “real world” identities that the teenagers find themselves torn between adapting to their new roles and saving Jumanji.
The chemistry between the cast is certainly Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle‘s main selling point. Working with a plot so light, it could have just hot air ballooned it’s way out of the jungle. But the cast commit to the roles, embracing the ridiculous nature of the concept, and having as much fun as they can. The result is vastly entertaining movie, that though light in plot is exactly the sort of action-adventure-comedy you require of the holiday season. In that regard it also makes a great sequel to the original film, capturing that same sense of adventure and excitement – even if the links to the first are tentative at best, and it’s over 20 years late.
Johnson and Gillan are the stand-outs here, both channeling awkward teenagers trapped in their ideal imagined bodies. Johnson displays impeccable comedic timing, underwriting the macho archetypal hero with adolescent fear and self-doubt, or swinging to the other extreme and displaying a blatant bravado. All this is combined with the Johnson’s already formidable action-star presence, makes for a pleasing contrast that serves in both a comedic and strait action role.
Gillan fills a similar place, albeit given less service by the script, although she does get one crowning moment of awesome, involving “combat-dancing”. Hart is doing the same shtick that he does in almost every one of his roles, while Black brings a cliched feminine side to the forefront in a performance that is equal parts cringe worthy and hilarious (and just pulled through by Black’s charisma).
As for that plot, well it does stay true to the video game nature that the quest is set in, allowing for a loosely linked set of action sequences, at regular intervals. In short, it’s more a roller-coaster ride, than anything well thought out, but it serves the needs of the film.
The end result is something that is fun to watch, and entertaining, while at the same time being eminently forgettable, and the very definition of an unnecessary sequel. It’s an interesting party trick, and if you can accept that then you should get some enjoyment from this holiday blockbuster.