“Adventurous FUN for EVERYONE” – Kathy Kaiser, Matinee Chat
JUMANJI – Rated PG-13 – 1 hr 59 mins
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, and Bobby Cannavale
Director: Jake Kasdan
The Game Has Evolved
It’s been 22 years since the 1995 classic Jumanji, starring Robin Williams, thrilled audiences Worldwide and became a cinematic icon. Now, a new story is ready to be told in “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”. In 1996, after the events of the first film, the cursed game washes ashore and is found by an unfortunate soul. One night, the game transforms-itself into a video game version and the kid mysteriously disappears, never to be heard from again. 20 years later. Four high schoolers: a nerd with his focus on schoolwork named Spencer (Alex Wolff), a star athlete struggling through class named Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), a young, pretty, oblivious popular girl named Bethany (Madison Iseman), and a quiet introvert named Martha (Morgan Turner) end-up in detention together one day. While given instructions to clean the old storage area, Spencer stumbles-onto the video game console containing Jumanji. To escape their boredom, they all grab a controller and select their characters. Only this is no ordinary game, as they soon find themselves being sucked into the game itself.
As they become aware, they fall from the sky into the jungle of Jumanji, but not as themselves, as the avatar character they selected. Spencer is now Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Fridge is his trusted companion zoologist Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart), Bethany is a cartographer named Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black), and Martha is a martial arts master named Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). Met by a guide named Nigel (Rhys Darby), the group must utilize each other’s strengths and weaknesses to return the legendary “Jaguar’s Eye” to lift the curse and free Jumanji, while avoiding the evil John Van Pelt. Various obstacles, challenges, and encounters await them in the beautiful jungle of Jumanji, but the visuals certainly paint a beautiful canvas for the game to unfold-upon.
When first announced, I admit I had my doubts. Not only were they “messing with” a beloved franchise that just lost its leader, but they were handing it off to a group of were sure to make an over-comedic spectacle. Put your minds at ease my friends, while “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” hardly captures the magic of the original, it doesn’t do any harm to the cinematic classic either. It’s obvious to see that there were good intentions when filming the movie. The main cast has an absolute blast with their roles’; with Jack Black absolutely stealing the show acting as a teenage girl (I can’t wait to see the gag reel)! Johnson and Hart prove once-again that they are at the top of the present comedy duo food chain with endless one-liners and their impeccable chemistry. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” features a few other characters as well, such as: Bobby Cannavale’s evil John Van Pelt and Nick Jonas’ avatar Seaplane McDonough that help dive-deeper into the mythology of Jumanji. And yes, there are a couple well-placed references to the original film as well! As you can already tell, the story is certainly very thin, but I did enjoy the video game references that make it feel like an actual game (cut scenes, repeated dialog, and characters’ number of lives). However, the film recognizes that and makes it very clear that all it wants to do it entertain you; and it succeeds! The jokes, for the most part, are hilarious, there are a few fun action sequences for all of the characters to enjoy, and the cast is an absolute joy to watch as they deal with their inner selves. At 119 minutes, the film takes a little while to get going, but once it does it keeps-up the fun until the credits roll. While certainly not groundbreaking, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is a laugh-packed action adventure that is fun for the whole family!
3/5 Stars – TONY MOSELLO