Director: Jake Kasdan
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale
Run Time: 119 mins
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a surprise treat in the crowded Christmas market of films and a very solid sequel to the Joe Johnston-directed, Robin Williams-led 1995 original. Four teenagers find themselves sucked into the videogame when they try to liven up detention which they have been placed into for breaking the school rules. They have to play as the avatars that they have selected in order to make it out of the jungle alive and not get stuck in the game forever.
On paper, this sequel shouldn’t work, as it has a hit-and-miss cast and a director responsible for atrocities such as Bad Teacher and Sex Tape. However, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a film that obeys its own rules and the central concept of evolving the Jumanji board game into a modern videogame is a masterstroke of genius. The ways in which director Jake Kasdan interweaves the game into the film narrative is expertly handled, with characters having to tackle different levels, having a certain amount of lives and expositionary flashbacks and characters synthesised into the story. The film always feels fresh, has a lot of heart and even more surprisingly, questions its characters morals and teaches them some important life lessons. It’s consistently funny as well, with a wide range of humour to suit different audiences.
All of the cast seem to be having a great time here, with Jack Black in particular excelling as a male avatar whom is a female character and there are endless subversions and comedic moments of gender. The cast all have great chemistry with each other and are all very genuine. The film is visually sound too and supplemented by Henry Jackman’s drum-heavy score to set the mood.
If there is a problem with the film, it is with the handling of the villain. Bobby Cannavale’s one-dimensional villain is woefully underused and doesn’t add much to the plot and is nowhere near as sinister as Jonathan Hyde’s hunter in the original film. The film threatens to make its ending quite interesting at one point, but unfortunately the film ends rather generically, yet still crowd-pleasing.
Otherwise, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is definitely a film to recommend in the Christmas crop and it should appeal to a wide range of audiences. Any sense of trepidation one might have considering the talent involved and the fact that it is a sequel to an older film can be thrown out of the window as the filmmakers have treated this property with the utmost respect and have managed to successfully evolve with the times.