HOLLYWOOD—It was a 1995 classic starring the late great Robin Williams that became a family favorite with its unexpected visuals and innovative storytelling abilities. Nearly 22 years later, we have a sequel to that blockbuster, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” I must say though, this sequel/remake as some have called it, doesn’t have any familiar faces from the past, and the story has reinvented itself in a fun way.
Instead of our primary characters being trapped inside a board game, they find themselves trapped inside a video game. While a fun concept, it’s not that far of a stretch to be honest America. The movie kicks off with four teens from Brantford High School who finds themselves transported inside the game after, doing a bit of cleaning out the school’s basement.
Once inside the game, we get introduced to the teen’s avatars; some unique characters to say the least. Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) plays an archaeologist who utilizes his strength to his advantage to outwit the obstacles inside the game. His polar opposite is Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), who is a zoologist, who is small in size, but has a vast array of weaponry skills. Everything that Bravestone can do, Finbar is unable to do.
That is where the movie shines; there is exceptional chemistry between Hart and Johnson, who utilize their comic skills to draw in the viewer. The banter between the two is hilarious and will leave the audience with bellyaches from laughing so hard. The duo previously teamed up for the comedy “Central Intelligence,” where Johnson was able to showcase his comedic chops. Johnson can be funny, but he needs an ally to bounce the right jokes off of. We also have the addition of Jack Black as Professor Sheldon Oberon, who seems to be a jack of all trades as a cartographer, cryptographer, archaeologist and paleontologist, whose weight does him a big disservice. Per usual Black’s shtick is to be overly loud and brass to draw the attention of the viewer. We also have Karen Gillan as Ruby Roundhouse, the sole female in a cast of male characters. She has a bevy of skills specifically her ability to kick butt thanks to her expertise in martial arts.
The fun of the movie is it plays just like a video game; you only have so many attempts to defeat the game or make it to the end, otherwise once all your lives are gone, you’re out! Of course every video game has a notable villain and Jumanji is no different as Russel Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale) does his best to obtain a special jewel known as the “Jaguar’s Eye” that gives him the power to manipulate animals in the game. Our villain is not memorable, but that is a small misfire that doesn’t totally take the film down completely.
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” relies solely on its ability to be a family-friendly flick to draw in all audiences. At its core it’s the comedic talents of Johnson, Hart and Black that carry the flick, not to mention its action-adventure narrative to draw the spectator in. This isn’t a film that will win points for its originality, but it’s entertaining, and for that result alone “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” wins in my book.