Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Movie Review
As far as reboots go—or sequels to 20-year-old movies that people had long stopped asking for—Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is an entertaining and inspired upgrade, even if it never advances to upper levels.
Whoever thought of taking the original Jumanji, which starred the late Robin Williams and featured lots of frightening moments that would scar children for a generation, and transforming it into a trapped-in-a-video-game format in which high school students are literally played by Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan—and Jack Black as a snotty teenage girl—should immediately be promoted to president of his or her studio.
Conceptually, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is fantastic, a fun, energetic and limitless approach with plenty of potential.
In reality, Jumanji never goes into full potential mode. It’s an enjoyable adventure, but it’s easy to see where the movie could have easily been better. Under the direction of Jake Kasdan (who has directed an array of middling comedies, from the okay Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story to the forgettable Bad Teacher and awful Sex Tape), the movie capitalizes on the strengths of its stars, but rarely lets them elevate the material. Having Dwayne Johnson play an awkward, skinny teenager is inspired, and Johnson clearly had fun in the role, but he’s been even funnier elsewhere. Hart is in the same boat; he’s good, but could have been funnier. Gillan I have less context to compare to, but she rises to the occasion (and damn the people who criticized her sexy attire, as that’s part of the joke).
Jack Black is the show stealer, and for obvious reasons. Casting him as a teenage mean girl is an award-worthy move, and he nails the role.
The cast is solid, and the movie is fun, but there were opportunities for Jumanji to be zanier, faster and off-the-wall crazy. When you think about the movie in the context of a video game, there are moments of brilliance and stretches where the film simply goes through the motions—moderately entertaining, but minutes wasted where Kasdan could have delivered more antics.
Funny but not that funny, thrilling but not that thrilling, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle works well enough—but doesn’t live up to its potential. Nonetheless, decent execution coupled with an amazing concept—and a terrific cast who relish in the opportunity—make this game worth a run.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.