No one was exactly excited to hear that there was a sequel to 1995’s Jumanji, yet here comes Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle directed by Jake Kasdan — and the holiday season just became a bit brighter. Having cabin fever from being sick, I had to make sure I took my daughter to see this film and it was well worth the trip to the movies.
Arguably even more engaging than its predecessor, this one is about four high school students discovering the magical game (which has reconfigured itself from a board game into a video cartridge) and being sucked into its dimensions. The clever hook is that these four kids have been placed into the bodies of the character players (played by Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan) yet retain their teenage personalities.
The result is an enjoyable and pure entertainment film, with a fun plot balanced with just the right amount of the stars’ irresistible characters. Those who have played video games before, especially on older gaming consoles, may appreciate the humor more than other people. My daughter and I loved so many moments in this movie, particularly the laughable strengths and weakness for the players. The film had a good balance from making repeat jokes for their strengths of “smoldering intensity” and “dance fighting” without overusing either of them.
Dwayne Johnson gets some comedic moments, Karen Gillan did a great job in her karate-kicking role, and Jack Black to us is the character that stole the movie, as he mimicked a teenage girl on a journey to self-discovery. He was in better terms, freaking hilarious. Of the four, only Kevin Hart mostly plays himself. And while Hart is still funny, his character doesn't get to do or learn much aside from it's OK to be friends with someone who is not considered cool.
Sure, not all of the jokes worked out, but enough of them do to keep the audience laughing during an entertaining action-packed flick. The movie is self-aware of what it's trying to do (and the benefits of who it cast) and pokes fun of itself enough to make it a worthwhile movie to grab when you're not looking for anything heavy this holiday season. I give it 3.75 out of 5 stars. Stay warm out there! -xo Mel