There’s not much to criticize about “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” a big-budget reboot of the 1995 Robin Williams adventure film about a board game gone awry. This time it has been re-imagined for the video game age, and it’s not necessary for audiences to have seen the original film to enjoy and appreciate this wildly fun movie.
When four teens discover an old game console while in detention and decide to play, they get sucked into the actual video game and become the avatars they choose. There’s nerdy Spencer (Alex Wolff) as brawny Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), football jock Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) as zoology expert Finbar (Kevin Hart), popular and shallow girl Bethany (Madison Iseman) as professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black), and wallflower Martha (Morgan Turner) as the man-killing warrior Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). The high schoolers must complete all the levels of the game in order to escape back to the real world.
The casting here is on point, with all of the charming stars playing off each other with an effortless glee. They’re having fun so we’re having fun, and the chemistry nears perfection. Black is the best of the bunch, channeling his inner hair flipping, iPhone addicted, Instagram star female persona. Hart and Johnson, a duo who just ‘click’ whenever they’re together, are pillars of unrestrained humor and amusement. The banter is so enjoyable that I dare you not to smile throughout the film.
There’s plenty of action to go along with the humor, and the CGI animals and special effects are good if at times a little hokey. The story is unabashedly corny, but in the greatest way possible. The crowd-pleasing film is full of thrilling adventure, exuberant laughs, and has an unexpectedly sincere and touching ending.
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is one of the biggest and best surprises of the year, and it’s everything a big-budget popcorn movie should aspire to be.
This time of year, Hollywood usually bombards us with its prestige pictures – the high-concept, serious-minded fare that is intended for accolades during awards season. But we also get a handful of popcorn movies to balance things out. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” clearly falls into the latter category and does a fantastic job of it, having all of its elements – story, script, setting, and actors – come together for one of the most wildly entertaining popcorn movies in recent memory.
Spencer, Fridge, Bethany, and Martha, four high-school kids from different cliques that are pulled together when they decide to play a video game to escape the tedium of detention. As soon as they start playing, they are transported into the bodies of the principal cast, Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan, and into the world of the game, Jumanji. Each of the kids must deal with living in a body and playing a type with which he or she is not comfortable. It works as both a body-switch comedy and as an action adventure, where Spencer and Martha (the nerdy kids) are forced to lead and the popular kids are forced to follow them.
For pure escapist entertainment, no 2017 film did it better.