Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
UK Release: 20/12/2017
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black
It’s been 20 years, but now Jumanji is back…
And it’s got a bit of an upgrade.
No doubt, you’ve heard of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. It’s the new Jumanji sequel that literally nobody was asking for… but we’re getting anyway. Thankfully, it turns out that it’s actually pretty good. The Jumanji sequel stars Dwayne Johnson as Dr Smolder Bravestone, Kevin Hart as Franklin ‘Mouse’ Finbar, Karen Gillan as Ruby Roundhouse and Jack Black as Professor Shelly Oberon, the adventuring quartet is tasked with saving a jewel known as the Jaguar’s Eye – the key to escaping Jumanji.
But that’s not the whole story…
It turns out that since Robin Williams was sucked into the nefarious board game, Jumanji has undergone a few changes. These days, it’s a mystical videogame which sucks in unsuspecting kids – much in the same way that the board game trapped its victims.
But by the time our heroes encounter it, it’s more of a retro classic.
After being rounded up for detention (for various amusing reasons) our adventuring quartet (in reality played by Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Ser’Darius Blain, and Morgan Turner) are tasked with clearing out the school’s basement.
Of course, it’s not long before they stumble upon the old videogame… and nothing is more tantalising than a dusty, retro videogames console that literally none of them have ever heard of before.
Things quickly go bad, and they’re sucked into the game.
And that’s when the film gets really, really fun.
First things first, there’s some hilarious gender-swapping going on when it comes to Jack Black’s character. The avatar of Professor Shelly Oberon is controlled by Bethany Walker – a teenage girl who’s obsessed with Instagram and social media. Obviously, she’s distraught to find that she’s been transformed into an overweight, middle-aged man… and while it could have been one of the cheesier moments of the film, it’s actually played to great comic effect.
In fact, Jack Black is amazing throughout.
It’s not exactly the most subtle performance, but in channelling his inner teenage girl, Jack Black pulls off one of the most naturally funny performances in the movie. And don’t even get me started on the moment Bethany realises she has to pee…
That said, the rest of the cast are brilliant, too. Kevin Hart is perfect as the big, brash jock who’s been knocked down a peg or two when he materialises in-game as the main character’s sidekick… and Dwayne Johnson manages to pull off the insecurities of a geeky schoolkid without it seeming too out of place, all while exploring the constant conflict between two ‘friends’ who have seemingly switched places when it comes to social stakes.
It’s certainly a very interesting way to go, and provides plenty of payoffs throughout.
But Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is more than just a character piece – it’s a bloody good family action flick, too.
Bouncing off the idea of videogame mechanics writ large, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle explores the high stakes environments of the jungle and all of its dangers, while allowing the main characters to die and return again… but only as long as they have lives left. Again, it’s a great twist on the original concept, allowing our adventurers to pit themselves against some pretty high-risk situations while still giving them a fighting chance… not to mention some hilarious moments as a result of some unexpected lives lost. That’s right – I’m talking about Kevin Hart’s rather explosive weakness to cake.
As you’d expect from a sequel, there’s plenty of call-backs to the original, too.
And as someone who grew up watching Jumanji, that’s all kinds of awesome.
The villain from the original Jumanji makes a sort-of return. That’s right – Van Pelt is back, this time played by Bobby Cannavale. He’s a corrupt explorer, possessed by the jewel that he once sought… and he makes for a rather awesome villain.
Much like the original Jumanji, there’s also another player who became trapped inside the game long before our adventuring quartet began playing. It’s a very similar role to the one played by Robin Williams in the original movie, but this time it’s the fifth player character, Jefferson ‘Seaplane’ McDonough – pilot, adventurer and a dab hand at mixing cocktails. If that wasn’t enough of a reference to the original, it looks as though he’s been hiding out in a very familiar treehouse, too. It’s the one built by Robin Williams in the original movie, and it’s an incredibly nice touch for long-time Jumanji fans.
But it’s a lot more than that.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is an excellent companion to the original movie, taking a huge leap off in another direction while maintaining the heart and awe of the original. It’s easily one of the most fun family movies I’ve seen in a long time, with plenty to appeal to both kids and their parents alike. The comedy is sure-fire, the action is awesome and it’s a non-stop thrill ride from start to finish.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle takes the original concept and levels it up.
Best of all, it’s really, really fun.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle stars Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black, alongside Rhys Darby, Bob by Cannavale and Nick Jonas.
Jake Kasdan directed the movie, based on a script by Chris McKenna, Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg and Erik Sommers.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle heads to cinemas on 20 December 2017.