How can a movie go wrong when the story features Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson running lose in a jungle? Thankfully, the new film “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” does not.
Johnson is featured in the second installment of the new “Jumanji” franchise that started back in 1995(!). I can’t believe it has taken Hollywood this long to formulate a sequel. As you may recall the original featured a character becoming trapped in the board game Jumanji, and the sequel has 4 teenagers becoming trapped in an old video game they find while cleaning a storage room in their high school. After dealing with the fact they have become trapped in the Jumanji video game, they discover each of them have actually become the characters they chose to play. The character of Spencer (Alex Wolf) becomes Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Bethany Walker (Madison Iseman) becomes Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black), Anthony Johnson (Ser’Darius Blain) becomes Franklin Finbar (Kevin Hart), and Martha Kaply (Morgan Turner) becomes Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan).
When the group of avatars discover they must find a jewel called the “Jaguar’s Eye” and return it to a huge jaguar statue in the jungle, and yell “Jumanji” in order to escape the game. If that challenge isn’t enough, the group must deal with the villain of the film, Russel Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale), who was corrupted by the jewel allowing him to control the animals in the jungle. As the group journey through the game (jungle) they come in contact with Jefferson “Seaplane” McDonough (Nick Jonas), who is also trying to escape the game. Thus, the avatars are dealing with the wild animals of the jungle and the constant pursuit from Van Pelt. Each of the avatars have special skills, and are given 3 lives each in the game. The only problem is, if they lose their third life, they actually die in real life. So needless to say, the stakes are high for the players. As with a typical video game, the films action is fast and furious, while featuring plenty of humor mixed in with the thrills. While all the actors are great in the film, the two highlights for me were Jack Black, playing the professor as possessed by a prissy girl, and Hart, hilarious as the character whose weaknesses are cake, speed and strength. His avatars only positive aspect is being the weapons valet for Bravestone. Even though Johnson is considered the lead in the film, and does a fine job, he is frequently overshadowed by his smaller in stature, but far better co-stars.
I do give kudos to Johnson for allowing his co-stars to steal many scenes from him as he mainly plays the action hero. Of all the actors involved, I felt Gillan was the weak spot, and while doing a capable job, I would love to have seen how Jennifer Lawrence would have handled the role of avatar Roundhouse. That bit of nick picking aside, I had a blast watching this film, and you can bet there will be more “Jumanji” films in our future. If you seek a film with the feeling of an amusement park attraction, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is your ticket.
Rated PG-13, 3 1/2 Video Games (out of 4)