Jumanji: Welcome to the jungle is sort of a direct Jumanji sequel directed by Jake Kasdan and an update for the the 21st century, as we follow 4 very different teenagers in high school who are thrust together in detention, finding themselves playing a Jumanji video game and finding themselves inexplicably sucked inside of it. The film stars Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan and Nick Jonas.
Right off the bat, the film is derivative and feels inspired by other entries, I mean it definitely is Breakfast Club meets Tron with its set up of different teenagers in detention getting sucked into a game but I have to give the film its own credit for taking an existing idea and expanding on it. Things are changed around with the teenage characters becoming drastically different avatars in the game which is a central source of a lot of comedy in the film, the shy, scrawny Spencer is now the ripped Dr Smoulder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), while Fridge, the built football player in real life now finds himself in Kevin Harts body. The same applies with body switching for social outcast Martha who finds herself in a kick ass martial arts fighting woman and shallow popular girl Bethany who finds herself in the body of a middle aged man as she puts it as Jack Black.
The performances are all pretty on point as you’d probably expect, Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart again show their great chemistry and sort of steal the show with their back and forths and interactions with Martha and Bethany as well but importantly, none of the performances feel too forced or like the actors are trying to hard, which is a fear I had for the film. Johnson especially is great as a make believe naïve teenage boy who can’t believe he’s now muscle bound and a de facto ladies man while Jack Black is quite funny as a make believe 16 year old girl.
Plot wise, things are a bit by the numbers and play out like the original Jumanji in more ways than one, which is a bit disappointing as the story could have done things a bit differently in the vein of its premise, events are localized in the video game rather than real life which is different but the plot fails to capitalize on the endless possibilities of being in a video game. You do get a few fun video game tropes but again, they’re not really expanded on and could have made for some really fun comedic beats – the idea of a controller dying/not working, glitches, invisible walls and barriers, leveling up etc are all things I just thought of off the cuff and things that could have provided some added laughs.
But ultimately the film is alright, not knee slapping-ly hilarious but not terrible either, it takes the idea of the original Jumanji and gives it a modern spin which is completely fine and the performances are quite fun but not enough is really done with the creative world of the video game which could have made the plot a bit more exciting and less generic.
. Well done comedy, good performances
. Plot is a bit generic
. Character interactions are fun, wouldn’t mind seeing them together again