The hyped sequel to the beloved Robin Williams film “Jumanji” hits theatres this holiday season. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan, this sequel brings the family classic into the modern era of video games and selfie culture and manages to shine a light on both featured talent and society.
Four teenagers assigned to detention discover the game in the basement of their high school. Now in old school video game console form, it intrigues the group and they unwittingly enter the game for an adventure they never prepared to have. As their avatars, they face both personal revelations and the dangers of the jungle head-on in order to save Jumanji and return home.
While we know that we are dealing with high school age individuals, it is up to the stars we see on the screen to carry the weight of the transformation. All four rise to the occasion, portraying both the traits of the avatars coded into the game and the insecurities of the teenagers who inhabit their bodies. No more so is the transformation more rounded or hysterical than in Jack Black’s portrayal of teenager girl Bethany, our self-obsessed cool girl who skates by life on her looks. Black manages the inanities of the teenage girl mentality, as well as moves the character of Bethany forward as she discovers that life means more the number of likes on Instagram. With the dominating physical presence of the Rock and the manic energy of Kevin Hart competing for the screen, Black may not be the personality at the forefront, but he is the actor who makes this movie.
In the age of “tell not show” movies, “Jumanji: Welcome the Jungle” manages to bring a bit of 90s storytelling back to the screen as we learn the story and background with the characters as they progress. Movies that require both a recap and a long explanation lose the opportunity to engross their audience in the moment and the journey, but this film fares far better for its “show not tell” approach and allows the audience to enjoy the ride.
Enjoy it they will, but beware of some of the more adult themed jokes. Many of these will fly over the head of the younger viewers in the audience while managing to elicit a few giggles from all present. Other issues, like the sexualized wardrobe of the Ruby Roundhouse avatar, played by Karen Gillan as the lone female for most of the film, is addressed and sorted with speed as part of the progression of the narrative.
“Jumanji: Welcome the Jungle” enters the box office at a time where movies like this are needed and welcome for family trips to the multiplex, and will most likely fare well in returns and audience reception. Its game cast and nostalgia plays with the video game aesthetic of some of the action sequences makes the film one to enjoy, and releasing it now vs the packed summer months will ensure this trip to Jumanji joins its predecessor as a fond memory of time well spent.
Jumanji is rated PG-13. 7/10
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