Jumanji takes another direction — into the jungle

December 26, 2017

JUMANJI: Welcome to the Jungle mightn’t be one of the best movies of the year, but it is, without question, one of the most fun movies of the year.

The cast is excellent and they overcome any of the film’s shortcomings through pure force of charisma.

It’s clear that we’re officially running out of nostalgia properties to reboot when Hollywood settles on a reboot/sequel to a relatively inconsequential movie like Jumanji.

If the original Jumanji is truly a dearly remembered film from your past, then you may be upset to learn Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is about as far from a faithful sequel as you can get.

However, if you’re ok with the new movie just being fun, you’re in for a treat.

This version of Jumanji follows four high school kids who get stuck in detention together one day.

Each one is a fairly standard stereotype.

The nerd (Alex Wolff) and the jock (Ser’Darius Blain), former friends from grade school, got busted because the former got caught doing the latter’s homework.

The outcast (Morgan Turner) made an unintended rude comment to the gym teacher, and the social media princess (Madison Iseman) got busted for using her phone in class.

It’s the Breakfast Club, minus the criminal.

While serving their punishment together, they find an old video game system already loaded with a Jumanji video game cartridge, having seemingly evolved itself from the original board game.

Upon starting it up, they get sucked into the world of the game; each high school stereotype becomes a very different video game trope.

The nerd turns into the muscle-bound hero Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson).

The jock becomes the sidekick, Franklin "Mouse" Finbar (Kevin Hart), the outcast becomes the sexy martial artist Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and the princess becomes the overweight (male) scientist, Professor Sheldon "Shelly" Oberon (Jack Black).

Upon arriving, they’re met by an NPC (Rhys Darby) who spouts pre-rendered expository dialogue that explains they must take the Jewel of Jumanji across the jungle back to its resting place in order to break a curse on the land, all while avoiding the evil John Hardin Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale). Only by beating the game, can they escape it.

What follows is a combination video-game action movie and body swap comedy, and the two different concepts work remarkably well together.

This is mostly thanks to a rock solid cast who takes a fairly paint-by-the-numbers plot and infuses it with humor and charisma, which carries the audience through from start to finish.

Dwayne Johnson has proven before that he’s the perfect combination of action hero and comedian, and any role where he’s able to show off both sets of skills is worth watching.

■Dirk Libby is a reviewer with CinemaBlend

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