“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is directed by Jake Kasdan and it’s about four high-schoolers who are placed in detention together, their punishment being that they have to clean out the school’s basement. During the clean up, they discover a video game titled “Jumanji” and they end up being sucked into the game itself. Now the only way that they can escape the video game is by simply beating it.
This movie is a sequel to the 1995 Robin Williams movie “Jumanji”. That movie is one that I loved as a kid, but then I went a long time without actually seeing from a more mature perspective. I recently rewatched an old VHS copy of mine and while the movie itself is still entertaining in a very goofy and unrealistic way, I think my enjoyment of that movie is more pertaining to the nostalgia rather than it being a legitimately well made movie. It’s a movie that was fine for the time it was made in, but now we have the more modern 2017 version, the one with a video game instead of a board game, as well as some of the bigger comedic actors that we all know in Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan.
To start off this review, I have to give major props to the actors mentioned above. The characters that they play are actually avatars for their real life counterparts. For example, Dwayne Johnson is the avatar for a normally skinny nerd in real life, Kevin Hart is the athlete, Karen Gillan being the awkward loner, and Jack Black portraying a spoiled Instagram princess. The actors are kind of going against typecast, but at the same time, they’re not. That said, I still got a lot of laughs out of these performances. While some of them do their usual schtick like Hart playing the short, shrieking wimp and Johnson being put on display as the badass action hero, you have really interesting choices like Jack Black acting like a spoiled little girl the entire time, and Karen Gillan actually giving a good performance for once in her life. To put things simply, I bought all of these actors as they play themselves playing high school stereotypes.
This movie also did a good job in taking advantage of it being a video game setting. The actual “Jumanji” game that it’s set in is suppose to be a really bad video game and the movie addresses several gaming tropes in a very funny way. The movie makes fun of stuff like the concept of remaining lives for the players, Karen Gillan’s unnecessarily skimpy jungle outfit, and hordes of oncoming enemies. But the movie not only makes fun of them, but it also embraces them and manages to create a lot of entertaining scenarios that you’d only see in a video game world, scenarios that got some solid laughs out of me. The actors certainly do their part in making the jokes land, but I also give credit to the director and writer for clearly having fun with video game tropes in movies and turning them into something fun.
One aspect about this movie that I didn’t care for is the villain, played by Bobby Cannavale. There’s nothing wrong with the performance at all, but it’s just that the character is every generic villain you’ve ever seen in any movie or video game. You could very well make the argument that the villain is suppose to be cheesy and generic seeing as how the video game is also very cheesy and just all around poorly made, but I still think that more could’ve been done with the villain in terms of making him stand out in such a larger than life environment that is Jumanji. As it stands, the only memorable thing about this villain is that he has bugs crawling out of his orifices.
I also think that this movie is a tad too long. After the wrap up of the main story that is escaping the video game, there’s still more drama that takes place afterwards. It only takes up about 5-10 minutes at the very end of the film, but I didn’t find myself as invested in it as I was in the main video game story. If anything, it feels like tacked on drama and I don’t think it needed to be in the final result.
That said, I still had a genuinely fun time watching “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”. The actors all do a good job, there’s plenty of funny moments, and the movie itself has fun in celebrating and mocking bad video game cliches in order to make for a fun movie. It’s an imperfect movie, but it doesn’t need to be a completely flawless film. All I wanted was a sequel to a 90’s movie that was the least bit fun and enduring and guess what? That’s pretty much what I got, so for that, I can recommend seeing this movie.