Sometimes the best thing a director can do is let their cast play to their strengths. Such is the case in Jake Kasdan’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Rather than seek to recreate the magic of the original, Kasdan increases the frivolity of the narrative. The result is a film that doesn’t seek to teach anyone a lesson but will cause your ribs to hurt from laughter.
The tale centers around four kids who end up in detention after committing separate incidents in the same day. Bethany (Madison Iseman), Spencer (Alex Wolff), football hero Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) and Martha (Morgan Turner) are tasked with cleaning out the storage unit of their school as punishment. While they’re cleaning Fridge stumble upon a video game unit that happens to have Jumanji in it. They begin playing it which results in all four kids being sucked into the game. Spencer morphs into Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), Fridge is now “Moose” Finbar (Kevin Hart), Martha is now martial arts dynamo Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and Bethany has become Professor Oberon (Jack Black). As each kid assumes the role of a character from the game, challenges begin to arise. For starters, they have to overcome the evil Professor van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale) as they race to return a green emerald to the top of the Jaguar statue. Apparently once this occurs a curse will lift and Jumanji will thrive once again.
Chris Mckenna, Jeff Pinker, Scott Rosenberg, and Erik Sommer that substitutes the warmth of the first film for gut-busting laughter. No is seeking to recreate Robin Williams performance, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle honors it. Mckenna brings that same wit to this screenplay as he did in Lego Batman Movie.
Johnson and Hart shine once again in their respective roles. When they are both on screen, their comedic timing is amazing. Robin Williams would have lost it, especially during the piggyback chase scene. Someone in Hollywood needs to put together a remake of Twins and cast these two in the leading roles.
Black plays the role of Bethany to comedic perfection. While Johnson and Hart are dynamite, his character dominates each scene therein. Seeing Black do the flirting scene is worth the price of admission itself.
While seeing Gillan awkwardly flirt with The Rock was fun, seeing those two makeout left the theater roaring. Who knew that Gamora’s sister could be hysterical? It’s the willingness of the writers to ridicule not only the actors but the actual idea of a game sucking people into it that makes this release strong.
In the end, this film is far from perfect but if an entertaining time is what you are looking for then look no further than Jumani: Welcome To The Jungle. While it’s easy to nitpick a release, sometimes a releases purpose is to bring joy to masses, and this indeed does that.