Welcome to Jumanji - the house Robin Williams built, we just live in it. As if sequels (inferior products by definition) weren’t hard enough to begin with, try making one more than 20 years down the track that's as beloved as this one, where its legendary star passed away under tragic circumstances... well, you may as well pack up now and not even bother, right? As it turns out, if you pack the cast with fan favourites, don't try to top the original, and pay respects to it and its star, you might just survive ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ and have a good time doing it.
Four teenagers stuck in detention: Spencer (Alex Wolff, ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2’) the cowardly nerd. Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain, 2011's remake of ‘Footloose’) the behemoth football jock. Bethany (Madison Iseman) the selfie and self-obsessed phone addict. And Martha (Morgan Turner, ‘Wonderstruck’) the shy yet recalcitrant brainiac. Tasked with menial work as punishment and self-reflection time, all four are sucked into a video game called Jumanji (wink, wink) and wind up becoming the avatars they picked to play... Spencer becomes Dr Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson, ‘The Fate of the Furious’, 'Moana'). Fridge is now Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart, ‘Central Intelligence’), Bethany is Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black, ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’, 'Goosebumps'), and Martha becomes Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2’). Each has their own set of strengths and weaknesses, and each has only three lives, just like a real video game. Their mission: return a stolen jewel to its rightful place in order to lift the curse that has befallen Jumanji. Simple, right?
Make no mistake, the appeal of ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ is not its action-adventure nature, or the fact that it’s the sequel to one of your childhood faves. It’s 100% witnessing the likes of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart acting like their teenage counterparts. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s very entertaining, but the MVP of this whole shebang is of course Jack Black - and the star scene, for which there are many, has to be watching him/her pee for the first time.
Director Jake Kasdan (‘Bad Teacher’, ‘Sex Tape’) has done a really great job here. He hasn’t made an overwhelming CGIfest, nor has he overloaded the story with complications or manufactured “moments”. He knows from the get-go the preconceived wrong foot this film is setting out on, and respects it. He makes light work of easing the old and the new audience in, and away we go on a rollicking good adventure filled with teenage angst, romance, danger, bravery and, of course, the film’s central message - you’re only given one life, so figure out who it is you want to be.
The MVP of this whole shebang is, of course, Jack Black. And the star scene? Watching him/her pee for the first time.
By the way, did I mention that Jack Black is awesome? Let me just take a minute to reread what I wrote... Yeah, I don’t think I sold it enough. So Jack Black is the reason to see this movie. Cough up the $20 or whatever, it’s totally worth it. He’s hilarious. Seriously, when was the last time Jack Black was this good? It’s been a while. He’s playing a teenage girl for Christ’s sake!! Go!