It feels unfair to call Jumanji: Welcome the Jungle, a sequel to the beloved 1995 Robin Williams hit when the two movies have no more in common than their titles.
The original Jumanji movie centers around Alan Parrish (Robin Williams) and, through his misfortunes, the dangers of the game become apparent. In 1969, Parrish comes across the board game Jumanji. After playing a few rounds of the game with his best friend, he gets sucked in for 26 years. In his absence, his father’s business, and the surrounding town, falls apart.
The game is next seen in 1995, where two siblings Judy and Peter Shephard (Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce, respectively) discover the game and continue where Parrish left off. As the game progresses, the kids are subjected to a torrent of various jungle creatures and people that escape from the game with each roll and wreak havoc on the town.
It’s clear that the only way to reverse the damage of the game is to finish playing, and characters face different emotional and physical challenges with each roll of the die. The movie’s moral messages and strong character development play out harmoniously, resulting in a heartfelt family-film suitable for all ages.
Sadly, the same can’t be said for the predecessor. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle leaves the impression that, in creating this movie, the producers watched The Breakfast Club and Indiana Jones. Then, thought to themselves, “Forget Jumanji, let’s just mash these two together,” and filled in the remaining structure with video game archetypes and cliches.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle opens in 1996, where we quickly see the board game transform itself after being tossed aside by a seemingly anti-social teen, Alex, into a video game. After discovering the transformation, Alex begins the game. Unlike the original movie, the video game sucks players into the console, right off the bat.
Flash forward to 2017, where the game inexplicably found a home in the basement of a nearby school, though no one questions it too much. The school also fosters a breakfast club-esque group of teens with no real characters. Soon after this said group is assigned detention together, the jock of the group, “Fridge”, finds the game. Of course, it doesn’t take much more than that to get the group to stray from detention duty.
As the game boots up, each teen must select an avatar that they later embody.
The nerdy boy, Spencer, chooses Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). Fridge takes on Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart). The awkward girl, Martha, selects Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) and the selfie-obsessed popular girl plays as Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black). Naturally, the opposite of their real-life personas.
The teens, now in avatar form, stumble through the video game jungle which is full of undeveloped side characters.
Unlike Alan Parrish’s character in the original Jumanji movie, Alex (Nick Jonas) is given almost no screen time to interact, much less develop a relationship with the other characters.
Overall, the movie focuses more on crude jokes and punchlines than developing a genuine story- including a two minute scene where Brittany struggles to pee in her male body.
Jumani: Welcome to the Jungle suits those looking for a way to pass time and have a few laughs without any real-take away. Those still interested in a “sequel” more closely related to the original Jumanji, should seek out the 2005 movie Zathura: A Space Adventure, starring a young Josh Hutcherson. Zathura mirrors Jumanji in board game mystics, but with an “out of this world” spin, and some even deem it the “spiritual processor” of Jumanji.
Starring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillian, Nick Jonas
Genre: Comedy and Action Film
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars