Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is the latest movie that’s part of a classic franchise, but even if the odds are against it, this is a pleasant surprise.
Although this has always existed to a certain extent, the last few years have seen the release of a multitude of films based on classic properties: Goosebumps, The A-Team, Baywatch, Robocop, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the list goes on and on and on. It’s remarkably easy to be cynical about this, after all, it’s easier for Hollywood to make a film based on something that people have an affection for that create something new and take some risks. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is the latest movie that’s part of a classic franchise, but even if the odds are against it, this is a pleasant surprise.
Unlike classic Jumanji, this direct sequel takes place inside a video game. The plot follows four teenagers who, after getting detention, find a vintage console and a cartridge, play the game together and are transported to the world of Jumanji. They play as the avatars they chose and in classic video game fashion, they need to take a powerful crystal across a series of levels to an ancient statue in order to complete the game.
As I mentioned, this movie takes place inside a video game and even though I would have never expected an actor the caliber of Dwayne Johnson (one of the highest paid actors in the world) to explain to a casual audience what avatar, levels, lives and just games in general are, that’s definitely the case here. This is one of those eye-opening moments where you just feel like video games are a medium that’s so popular that they became a part of popular culture.
This time around, the protagonists are nerdy teenager Spencer, football star and Fridge, smartphone addict and prom queen candidate Bethany and intellectual and socially anxious Martha. As most teenagers I know (and the few I remember from hell… I mean high school,) they all have their insecurities and once they get inside the video game, these issues come up again and again which leads to some humorous and surreal situations. It’s so easy for body swap movies to feel like one-trick ponies or a gag that quickly wears out, but here it just works.
I would have never expected an adventure comedy film starring Jack Black, Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan to work, but it does and the cast does a convincing job of using their strengths, but also some weaknesses. Dwayne Johnson plays a confident, muscular explorer, but he’s also an avatar of an insecure and nerdy teenager. The way in which these actors play roles that they are used to, but also unusual ones is incredibly convincing and proves the range they have.
Welcome to the Jungle is fun to the whole family and I found it amusing. But there’s more to it than charm, the way the movie starts, you get the impression that this is going to be a Breakfast Club-like movie where a couple of teens eventually find an old board game and are transported to a fantastic world. This is one of many small attractive twists that make the experience just ebb and flow in an organic manner.
Like a lot of movies before it, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle expects people to recognize the brand it represents so that people watch it, but surprisingly enough, there’s a lot to like here: the cast is charming, there are humorous moments and the story (while not incredibly original) just works. I bet there was absolutely not a person on the planet wondering “Geez, when do you think a new Jumanji movie’s coming out,” but for what it is, this is a more than competent adventure comedy that the whole family can enjoy.