I will be honest right now and tell you that I was among the most skeptical when plans were first announced for this film. As someone who adored Jumanji in her youth I was convinced that nothing would compare to the magic and thrills of the original. Even with star Dwayne Johnson emphatically defending the film as neither a sequel or reboot, my audible groans and signs continued.
Now that I have seen the movie and had a couple of days to process it all I am proud to report that I was completely right! Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle does not compare to the magic and thrills of the Robin Williams’ original, however it is absolutely the best movie that fans could have hoped for.
Welcome to the Jungle is not a sequel, remake or reboot–it is better defined as a continuation of an already interesting story. And since I’m being completely honest I was always curious about the world of Jumanji…
In this chapter of the story four high school students are thrown together for a principal- mandated detention after separate offenses. Spencer is a nerdy hypochondriac, Fridge is a popular athlete struggling academically, Martha is unable to make friends and Bethany is self-centered and addicted to her phone. After stumbling across the video game console they decide to play on a whim. Upon selecting avatars the game transports them to the treacherous jungles of Jumanji.
This is a movie that has plenty of humor to go around! Seeing the adult avatars interact with one another and navigate the jungle is a lot of fun. Spencer is morphed into an epic foil of himself– Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), the tough do-it-all leader of the bunch, Fridge becomes the diminutive Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart), Martha comes to life as Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) aka “Killer of Men”, while Bethany is transformed into Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black), a brilliant cartographer much to her chagrin.
I thought that the acting was great and the script itself was pretty well-developed from the very beginning. The action sequences were both well-executed and suspenseful. So much so that you actually find yourself rooting for these characters and hoping they make it home all in one piece.
The fact that we get to explore the mythos of Jumanji a little more is also exciting. There are countless dangers there such as blood-thirsty panthers, a gang of motorcycle baddies, and a perilous terrain to boot. Everything is working against the kids and their avatars so when they triumph through a level in the game the victory feels like a shared one.
Most importantly, this movie doesn’t try to be something it’s not. It sticks to funny and light-hearted rather than trying to be some deep think-piece. So often movies get made that lose their own point in the process (think Independence Day: Resurgence) and I could appreciate that Welcome to the Jungle remained the fun romp it was intended to be.
The filmmakers also paid homage to Robin Williams’ character Alan Parrish in a small, but beautifully organic way. If you never saw the 1995 version or you loved it (like me), I think you’ll be able to find something you like about this one! It’s currently in theaters now.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is directed by Jake Kasdan (Bad Teacher) and the screenplay is based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg. It stars Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas (*swoon), Alex Wolff, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner and Bobby Cannavale.
What were some of your favorite movies as a child? Let me know in the comments down below!