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Movie Review

12/27/17

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Rhys Darby, Nick Jonas, Alex Wolff, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner, and Bobby Cannavale
Monte’s Rating
3.00 out of 5.00

Monte Yazzie
Movie Columnist

A magical board game called Jumanji wreaked havoc on two kids in the 1990s, unleashing a jungle of wild animals, dangerous challenges, and a long-lost man who had been trapped in the game for decades. The 1995 film starred Robin Williams at the peak of his stardom and brought a playful adventure tale to life in a family friendly way.

Continuing the gameplay in the sequel “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” are a group of high school students stuck in detention. Here, the group of teenagers are transported into a video game jungle adventure world. Director Jake Kasdan takes a somewhat mediocre computer generated fueled action film and injects it with extremely likable cast of characters, making this film a fun and funny adventure romp.

Spencer (Alex Wolff) is a high school nerd who loves to play video games and has terrible allergies. Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) is a football player struggling with his grades; he makes Spencer do his homework. Bethany (Madison Iseman) is a self-absorbed popular girl more concerned about getting the perfect selfie than paying attention in class. Martha (Morgan Turner) is a defiant loner who doesn’t understand the purpose of gym class and would much rather be learning than making friends. These four students cross paths in detention and find an old video game while cleaning, but after picking their characters in the game, they are transported into another world.

Now the students must survive the game playing as their adult avatars: Spencer becomes Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), a muscular hero with zero weaknesses; Fridge becomes Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart), a small in stature zoologist and weapons holder; Martha becomes Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), a dance fighting commando; and Bethany becomes Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black), a middle-aged man who is also a cartographer.

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” moves pretty quick for a film that runs about 20 minutes too long. Much of the story operates in the basic format as the 1995 film, except this time around the method of transportation takes the gamers into the adventure rather than the adventure coming to them. CGI hippos, elephants, jaguars, rhinos, and a slew of other creatures and jungle backgrounds take the visual spectacle to lengths that hamper some of the better storytelling elements. But it’s hardly the story that will entice audiences into the theaters for this one.

What saves “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” from being another half-hearted sequel is the cast; both the young actors and the adult actors compose a nice blend of characters with simple traits played genuine. Dwayne Johnson leads the cast as the heroic tough guy who is embodied by an unconfident, scared teenager. Johnson’s natural comedic charm makes this character believable. Kevin Hart plays the sidekick, although he is embodied by the football playing jock. Hart is always the biggest character in the room, even when Dwayne Johnson is present; this confidence is played for laughs many times throughout the film. Karen Gillan is also good as Ruby Roundhouse, though her character is sometimes overshadowed. Still, she has a few moments to shine, in particular a dance fighting scene played to an amusing soundtrack choice. Jack Black steals the show here playing Professor Oberon with all the physical and verbal touches of a teenage girl.

Playing the in-game characters opposite their teenage players gives the journey a few nice touches, especially when the scared teenager must become confident, when the jock needs to be a team player, or when the self-absorbed girl must sacrifice to save someone else. While these moments come in the most obvious ways, the actors do a good job of selling the performance.

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” may not be the most ingenious sequel to the original 1995 film but it doesn’t seem too concerned about oneupmanship. This is one of those films that seems perfectly suited for easy laughs and simple fun.