I would be lying if I told you I didn’t think the Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle trailer made the film look stupid, but I’m happy to report that I was wrong here. It’s been a rough couple of weeks of movies but the tide may have turned. Jumanji opens with the infamous board game we all remember from back in the day now converted into a video game form because no one in 1996 played board games the second Sony changed the game with the PlayStation 1. Meanwhile, at a high school, 4 students (a nerd, a jock, a pretty girl, and…another nerd) have detention when they decide to plug-in the new and improved Jumanji and get sucked into the game…literally.
The concept here is straightforward, the four kids become their video game avatars and must finish the game to go home. If you are a fan of the original, this movie isn’t as good as the Robin Williams film, nor does it try to live on that film’s legacy. Welcome to the Jungle is basically its own story, no dice, no turns, just survival. The film’s cast all play a role and honestly, everyone plays their part well. Even Jack Black who I saw as the weak link here was pretty good in the film. The comedy isn’t quite hilarious, but the cast, many who have worked together in the past have the chemistry to play off of each other and make it enjoyable.
The script is well thought out as they manage to keep things simple and interesting. Playing the rules of a game, they establish each player has only had three lives before dying and outside of one ‘heroic’ scene, don’t bend the rules of the game. This adds much-needed tension when players no longer have any room for error when it comes to survival. Karen Gillan steals the show here as the self-aware butt kicking Ruby Rousehouse. Gillan excels in scenes where she seems to be the most unconformable including a hilarious attempt to seduce a couple of NPCs that goes wrong in many ways. The Rock and Kevin Hart are serviceable here but we have seen better from them in other films. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle isn’t quite a great movie, but it is very good. It is fun, well paced, and to the point; making it one of the biggest surprises of the winter.
OFFICIAL RATING: ***
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