This not-quite-sequel to the Robin Williams-starring adventure film, which terrified young viewers in 1995 and has distractingly dated due to its aged special effects, is, against all odds, surprisingly decent. Directed by Jake Kasdan, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle sees four Breakfast Club stand-ins find the Jumanji game, this time updated from an ominous board game to a retro video game cartridge. They get sucked into its virtual world and find themselves mismatched in the bodies of their “avatars”, played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart and Jack Black on scenery-chewing form.
The body-swap shenanigans that turn the geek into the jock, the unassuming wallflower into the badass jungle babe, and so on, is the film’s core gag and means that the actors get to have a lot of fun playing against type. The joke inevitably runs out of steam and Kevin Hart stands out as the weak link, but a distinct lack of cynicism on show is to be applauded. Granted, the script could have benefitted from more inventive, 21 Jump Street-esque meta fun (despite slyly poking fun at video game tropes), but Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle succeeds in treading its own earnest and cheesy path, avoiding overly smug cynicism or the lazy use of nostalgia as a crutch, à la Jurassic World. The end result is a breezy blockbuster adventure that lacks the charm and sense of peril conjured by the original, but one which still manages to capture a similar spirit of fun.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle | Directed Jake Kasdan (US, 2017), with Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Jack Black. Starts December 21.
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