We went to our local cinema to see Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the sequel to the much-loved late, great Robin Williams family adventure film Jumanji. If the truth is told, the trailers had left us underwhelmed but strong word of mouth had us intrigued.
The film does well to establish that the dated board game of the original needed to be upgraded for new tech-savvy audiences. The game becomes a cartridge for a games console in 1996 and it takes its first victim when he inserts it and the Jumanji drums start up again.
We then flash forward 20 years to find 4 students who are put into detention for various reasons. These students are the usual clichés these films deliver; Spencer (Alex Wolff) the quiet nerd; Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) the sports jock; Bethany (Madison Iseman) the popular girl and Martha (Morgan Turner) the shy girl.
Whilst in detention they find the 90s console with the Jumanji game and treating it like an antique, they decide to give it a go! We then hear those all familiar drums again and the 4 friends having chosen their characters from the avatars available in the game are sucked into the game.
Spencer becomes the hero, Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson)
fridge becomes the short, bumbling idiot Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart)
Martha becomes the super brave, martial art expert Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan)
And the social media posting, pretty Bethany becomes the overweight Shelly Oberon (Jack Black)
They are ‘Welcomed to the Jungle’ by Nigel (Rhys Darby) who explains to win the game, they need to retrieve the ‘Jaguars Eye’ jewel from Van Pelt (the same villain of the original) played by Bobby Cannavale. Once they get the jewel they need to return it to a huge Jaguar statue, but have to complete various game levels to do it!
The 4 soon learn that now they are in a computer game, they have 3 lives each, and these are at risk from Hippos to cake. This sees them soon knowing they have to work as a team to use each other’s strengths.
During the first level part of the game, they come across Alex, the boy we saw taken from 1996, played by Nick Jonas. Luckily for them, he is a trained pilot which of course will come in handy.
This really is a great fun family film which could have been a bland film but is made wonderful by the 4 leads performances. Jack Black is simply outstanding as he plays the teenage girl dealing with the man’s body. Kevin Hart also does great as he plays the all-star football player, who is now the sidekick to the shy, uncool kid.
Likewise, Johnson does well as having to be the strong, brave born leader, the opposite of his alter-ego from outside the game. Gillan also does well as the alter-ego of the shy girl who hates sports but is now a martial arts expert, who can flirt with boys etc.
The film, of course, is not without faults, some of the CGI is poor; Van Pelt doesn’t really do enough to justify his villain role but they are minor faults as the film is a surprising joy and one that deserves the plaudits, we are sure Robin Williams would have enjoyed it too, and that is probably the best compliment we can give it.