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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Dan's Review: "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" good for a little fun, few laughs

Dec 20, 2017 08:17PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, and Nick Jonas in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle - © 2017 Sony Pictures.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Sony Pictures)

Rated PG-13 for adventure action, suggestive content and some language.

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale, Rhys Darby, William Tokarsky, Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Ser'Darius Blain, Morgan Turner, Marc Evan Jackson, Mason Gussione, Colin Hanks, Sean Buxton, Tim Matheson, Sylvia Jefferies, Virgina Newcomb, Maribeth Monroe, Missi Pyle.

Written by Jake Kasdan, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner.

Directed by Jake Kasdan.



Here we go again. Never content to leave well enough alone, another Hollywood studio is launching another sequel/update. This time, it’s a reboot of 1995’s Jumanji, with an ensemble cast including Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is the story of four teens sent to detention (Alex Wolff, Madison Iceman, Ser'Darius Blain, Morgan Turner) that discover a vintage video game in the high school basement. The game is a morphed version of the board game (seen in the 1995 film) that sucks the teens into the jungle, where they possess avatars very different from reality. The school geek Spencer has transformed in Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson). Spencer’s childhood friend Anthony, A.K.A. “The Fridge,” a tall, football player, is transformed into Franklin “Moose” Finbar (Kevin Hart), a zoologist and cartographer. The school’s most popular girl Bethany takes on the persona of Professor “Shelly” Oberon (Jack Black), while the reclusive Martha inhabits the body of Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), a super-sexy and scantily clad “slayer of men.” When they arrive in the jungle, the kids learn that they must replace a jewel at the top of a giant jaguar sculpture in order to lift a curse and end the game. The kids must learn how to use the expertise and skills of their new avatars to overcome their fears. They soon discover that another player, Alex/”Seaplane McDonough (Nick Jonas) has been stuck inside the game for 20 years, unable to finish it by himself. The game was transformed from the board game to the video version in Alex’s  bedroom 20 years prior. The team must learn to trust each other and draw upon their unique talents to defeat the evil Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale), who uses the stone to control all the animals in the jungle.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle has a few laughs, mostly from Jack Black playing a “hottie” trapped inside a middle-aged man’s body. Some of the penis jokes go a little too far, but Black channeling a teenage girl has its moments. Kevin Hart does a lot screaming, taking on the “hysterical” part of the group dynamic. His performance is also mildly amusing at times, but not anything that prompts belly laughs. Most of the film centers around Spencer’s avatar (Johnson) and a predictable romance with Martha’s avatar (Gillan), which the couple hopes will translate into the real world, should they ever get out. Some of it works, but it’s hard to overlook some of the lazy storytelling and missed opportunities to exploit 1990s game culture along the way.

So, we’re all glad that Sony Pictures can make a few bucks by retreading a marginal 1990s hit by providing a little holiday escapism, but Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle isn’t worth getting too excited about.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Trailer