Like many people my age – those in their formative years when the original “Jumanji” was released – I cringed, and likely audibly sighed a bit, when I heard that a reboot/sequel/whatever of the action-adventure was announced.
Dwayne Johnson or not, how could they even think about trying to replicate or top the original?
Kevin Hart (Franklin "Moose" Finbar), Dwayne Johnson (Dr. Smolder Bravestone), Karen Gillan (Ruby Roundhouse) and Jack Black (Professor Shelly Oberon). (Photo Credit: Frank Masi - ©2016 CTMG. All Rights Reserved. **ALL IMAGES ARE PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. SALE, DUPLICATION OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED.)
Then I took a step back and realized that I was kind of being “that guy” – the one whose childhood is “ruined” by one of his favorite movies being “sullied” by Hollywood. Don’t be “that guy” … nobody likes “that guy.”
And truth be told, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is really more a continuation of the original story than anything else.
As we saw 20+ years ago, the Jumanji game is a powerful one. Despite efforts taken back in 1996 to make sure nobody else would end up like Alan Parrish (Robin Williams), the game magically makes its way back and ends up in the hands of teenager Alex Vreeke.
When Alex shows more interest in his video games than the mysterious board game, Jumanji reinvents itself as a video game. Once Alex starts playing, he’s dragged out of his reality and into the game – assumed lost by his friends, family, and community.
Fast-forward 20 years and four high school students stumble upon the game and start playing … only to be drawn into Jumanji against their will.
Dwayne Johnson as Dr. Smolder Bravestone. (©2017 CTMG. All Rights Reserved. **ALL IMAGES ARE PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. SALE, DUPLICATION OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED.)
Once inside they have transformed into Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Johnson), Franklin “Moose” Finbar (Kevin Hart), Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black). As is always the case in Jumanji, in order to get out, they must play the game, getting assistance from and fighting against other characters in the game.
If I’m being completely honest, as much as I enjoyed – and enjoy to this day – the original “Jumanji,” “Welcome to the Jungle” is not only a worthy follow-up, I think it actually might be better than its predecessor.
The story is on point – it keeps the spirit of the original, but turns it into something new that could stand on its own feet if it had to. The jokes hit way more often than they don’t – largely because of the comedic timing of the four lead actors. The action is a bit over-the-top, but considering it takes place within a video game, it works and was to be expected.
Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Nick Jonas star in “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” (©2017 CTMG. All Rights Reserved. **ALL IMAGES ARE PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. SALE, DUPLICATION OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED.)
The highlight for me, hands down, is the cast. Johnson continues to grow and impress as a comedic/action star (“Baywatch” excluded) and he has great comedy with Hart, who despite my general indifference toward, is also outstanding here; Gillan, known more for sci-fi/action roles in “Doctor Who” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” more than holds her own in terms of jokes and is surpassed physically by only Johnson; and Black is his typical ridiculous self (which can sometimes be too much) in a role that demands nothing less.
The film is going to have its detractors, but it’s fun, it has a lot of heart, and it remains true to the film that it’s following.
If that’s not enough for its detractors to quiet down, there really isn’t anything that’s going to get them to.
★★★★ of ★★★★★