Movie Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle had its theatrical release on Wednesday and has been receiving some stunningly positive reviews. The film was directed by Jake Kasdan and written by a team that included Kasdan, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, and Jeff Pinkner. A sequel to the 1995 favorite, Jumanji, the story follows four teenagers who find themselves sucked into the video game world of Jumanji. Their avatars are played by Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan. The cast is also supported by performances from Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale, Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Ser’Darius Blain, and Morgan Turner.
This film begins in 1996 where someone has discovered the Jumanji board game that Alan Parrish tossed into a river at the end of the first film. When teenager Alex Vreeke dismisses the game, though, the game transforms into a video game cartridge. The film fast forwards twenty years to four teenagers in the same town. Bethany is self-absorbed; Martha is smart but shy. Spencer is a nerd who writes essays for his former friend Fridge to help him pass his classes. All of them end up in detention for various reasons, and while cleaning out the basement, they find the old Jumanji video game system. They soon find themselves transported into the game as the avatars they chose. The rest of the story follows their journey as they work together and hopefully find a way out of the perilous game.
I can be honest and admit that when this movie was first announced I was not the least bit interested in seeing it. However, the first trailers began to change my mind, and now I can admit that I loved laughing through this hilarious adventure. The film was consistently funny and captured the essence of teenagers in this age as well as the particulars of the video gaming world. There was such a great attention to detail in this movie, and those details consistently pay off throughout the story. The movie obviously uses humor well, but it also uses those moments to push these teenagers into changing from their formerly flawed ways.
The actors and actresses that played the teenage versions of these characters were great, but the real standouts here are the actors playing their avatars in Jumanji. Dwayne Johnson’s character is called Dr. Smolder Bravestone, and I cannot explain just how perfect this characterization was. For such a tall, muscular guy, he portrayed the nerdy teenage character well. Karen Gillan was amazing as the insecure Martha stuck in the killer Ruby Roundhouse, and Kevin Hart’s embodiment of a character appalled to no longer be the impressive, football player was also well portrayed. However, the real MVP in this movie is Jack Black. I have always found Jack Black to be hilarious, but him portraying a vapid, teenage girl has brought about a brand new appreciation for him. There are so many jokes that are appropriate for a teenage girl who now finds herself in a grown man’s body, and the movie utilizes that dynamic well.
Overall, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a fun romp that knows better than to take itself too seriously. It does have a few problems with a fairly unnecessary villain, but outside of that, this film is highly entertaining and will keep you laughing. I will warn that they do push the PG-13 rating to the max with a few jokes that are definitely a little too much for young audiences. However, it doesn’t take away from the fun nature of this fantastical adventure or detract from a few of the heartfelt moments. Also, I thought the video game elements that they incorporated into the story were fantastic and added to the storyline. I personally think that Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is worth the price of admission into the theater, and I think its a great tribute to the first star of the Jumanji franchise, Robin Williams.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.