In 1995, the first Jumanji came out and now we’re getting a sequel 20+ years later. It is a direct sequel, not a reboot, though it’s an all-new cast. I had low expectations going in, as reboots aren’t traditionally great, though the cast seemed like a comedic dream team. Let’s see if it all works together!
It’s modern day and we follow four high school kids from different pockets of the school. For various reasons, they all end up in detention and they discover a video game called Jumanji that teleports them into the game itself, where they are now characters. The nerd in the group becomes Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the brave leader of the group, while the star football player turns into the sidekick who carries the backpack of gear (Kevin Hart). The shy girl becomes a “man killer” with fighting skills (Karen Gillan) and the self-absorbed Instagram addict turns into the overweight cartographer (Jack Black).
The four of them must survive in this jungle environment, while learning about their characters’ skill sets and special powers. They also encounter a mysterious pilot who might be able to help them (Nick Jonas).
Our villain for the movie is played by Bobby Cannavale and has the power to control animals, which he uses to try to kill our heroes.
As a comedy, this movie succeeds in a lot of ways. They managed to cast four leads that all do their own unique thing very well. A lot of this hinges on playing against type. The highlight is Jack Black’s performance, absolutely convincing that he’s actually a teenage girl. He’s been a little out of the spotlight lately but this movie reminded me that he’s a comedic powerhouse.
The other three leads get their time to shine as well. The Rock is a nerd who is too shy and insecure to do anything brave, while Karen Gillan is supposed to be self-conscious and uncomfortable talking to boys, highlighted by an incredible sequence where Jack Black teaches her how to seduce.
The only weak link is Kevin Hart, though he does exactly what people want from Kevin Hart, so it’s not really a failure here, he just doesn’t play against type as much as the others.
What doesn’t work?
As a comedy, this movie is solid, however it doesn’t succeed in the action department as much. There are a few really cool sequences sure, but the visual effects are lackluster and every set they’re on looks incredibly fake. You usually don’t notice the sets and environments, so it’s a bad sign when you recognize that they’re on a soundstage somewhere.
The action is also undercut by a mediocre villain. I know he’s supposed to be a two-dimensional video game villain but Cannavale leaves very little impression here.
I think people will laugh and have a great time but I don’t think this movie is memorable, which docks a few points for me.
Also, as a content warning, they discuss genitalia a lot, which might make it awkward if you bring your kids. Not really suitable for young kids.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a deceptive movie because you’ll have a blast watching it, but once you start to notice the flaws, it’s hard to ignore. Every set looks fake, the visual effects aren’t great, and the villain is incredibly weak. You’ll have a fun time at the movies but I think in just a few days, you’ll quickly forget this movie existed.