“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is somewhat connected, yet very different, than 1995’s “Jumanji”, which starred the late Robin Williams. That family adventure brought a board game to life. This slightly more adult sequel puts a retro video game at the center of the action.
“Jumanji II” is actually a mash-up of several other movies – some classics, others, not so much:
- “The Breakfast Club” – Four high school students (the nerd, the football player, the popular, pretty girl and the socially awkward, quiet girl) get sent to detention on the same day and bond.
- “Pixels” and “Wreck-It Ralph” – When these teens discover an old video game in a storage rooms they plug it in, choose their characters, get sucked into the game and transform into their characters.
- “Raiders of the Lost Ark” – The teens, who now have the outer appearances of Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and “Guardians of the Galaxy”‘s Karen Gillan, must win the game in order to escape. They go on a quest to retrieve a green diamond and put it into the eye of a giant jaguar statue.
- “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” – This 2012 sequel also starred Dwayne Johnson and included a similar jungle location and character attire.
- “Central Intelligence” – Johnson and Hart reunite following that 2016 action comedy, and they bicker here just as much.
The weakest element of “Welcome to the Jungle” is the comedy (which is not a good thing for a comedy). I didn’t laugh once. I was curious to see how the story would play out, and if the script (from four writers) and director Jake Kasdan (“Sex Tape”) would take any risks. It does not.
All four of the main actors are likeable – separately. But together they just don’t gel. The fact that they’re forced to speak and interact as teenagers doesn’t help, nor does the inconsistencies that come with this gimmick. Sometimes Johnson is acting nerdy, other times he’s acting brave (the main characteristic of his game persona). But all the time we’re simply watching The Rock. The only cast member who plays it straight, and therefore provides some refreshing relief, is Nick Jonas. He plays a former game player who’s been stuck in Jumanji for 20 years, unable to escape.
There are a couple nice touches for gamers, including (what I hope are) the intentionally underwhelming visual effects, which replicate the look of video games of the 90s. Bobby Cannavale plays the villain. He’s definitely creepy but pretty irrelevant in the big picture.
If you haven’t seen or don’t remember much of the original “Jumanji”, you can certainly follow “Welcome to the Jungle” (which does feature that iconic Guns N’ Roses song during the credits). That is, until the ending, which makes no sense time-wise if you try to dissect it. My advice: Don’t bother trying.
“Jumanji” isn’t completely dull, but it rarely moves the excitement meter. It’s similar to the results of playing a video game for too long but feeling the need to complete it for that sense of accomplishment: a monotonous, mindless, but somewhat rewarding experience.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” gets a C.
Running Time: 119 min.