Some movie ideas can make you cringe, and upon hearing that a sequel to 1995’s Jumanji would be rolling out to theaters at the end of the year I rolled my eyes. Did that original film about a board game’s crazy behavior really need a remake or sequel? Surprise, surprise, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle takes that crazy board game, flips the concept and, instead of rolling my eyes, I’m laughing, as is the rest of the audience.
In this new version, the clever Jumanji board game updates itself to a more modern world and becomes a video game. In this version of the game, the wild animals and characters don’t enter our world; instead, the players enter its video game world. That’s what happens to four high-school teens stuck in detention: Spencer (Alex Wolff), the nerd; Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), the jock; Martha (Morgan Turner), the cynical one; and Bethany (Madison Iseman), the popular girl. They get sucked into the world of Jumanji and turned into Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black—and that’s where the humor comes from.
The four must team up to complete a mission, because until the mission is completed they are stuck in the game. Sure, the nerd may now have Dwayne Johnson’s muscles and a smoldering intensity, but he’s still a nerd. As for Bethany, she’s stuck in Jack Black’s body, which is one of the major sources of humor in the movie. Watching Black’s Bethany get flirtatious with another of the characters is ridiculous and funny.
Of course, a comedy-adventure requires more than great laughs. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle puts together some action sequences when the team has to level up in the game. Director Jake Kasdan films these efficiently, and though some of the scenes are over the top and not always exciting, it fits with the tone of the Jumanji game. The movie throws in a creepy villain, played by Bobby Cannavale, but it doesn’t add much to the adventure. There’s also Alex (Nick Jonas), a hotshot pilot who joins up with our four protagonists. There’s even a visual call out to Robin William’s character from the first film.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle isn’t a perfect movie, but its likable characters overcome some of the faults of the film. It’s a decent popcorn movie and it won’t make you roll your eyes. It will make you laugh.