Spencer (Alex Wolff) and Fridge (Ser’DArius Blain) were best friends when they were younger. Now that they are in high school, Fridge is a football star who uses Spencer to do his homework. After they get caught cheating, they are sent to detention. Selfie obsessed Bethany (Madison Iseman) and loner Martha (Morgan Turner) find themselves in the same detention. While they are cleaning a room in the basement as part of their punishment, they find an old Jumanji video game. After turning it on, they are sucked into the game.
Spencer (Dwayne Johnson) is now the buff leader. Fridge (Kevin Hart) is now the short, nerdy one whose weaknesses include cake. Martha (Karen Gillan) is the stereotypical sexualized video game heroine. Bethany (Jack Black) is now a man. Instructed by Nigel (Rhys Darby), the group must now find a way to save Jumanji.
In order to save Jumanji and escape back to the real world, they must find a gem and return it to a statue of a jaguar buried deep in the heart of the jungle. On top of the dangers of traveling through the jungle, Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale), the villain of the game, is hunting them down. Van Pelt was the one who originally stole the gem, giving him the power to control the animals. If Spencer, Fridge, Martha, and Bethany want to return to their lives, they must survive the jungle and Van Pelt’s thugs to return the jewel.
More of a reboot than a sequel, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle replaces the board game with a video game and throws a new group of kids into the game.
After teaming up earlier this year in Central Intelligence, Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson have shown they are a formidable action/comedy team. Aside from the obvious physical differences, their styles are almost completely different as well. Hart and Johnson know how to play this up for good comedic effect and not relying simply on size jokes. It has been a while since Jack Black has had a chance to show his skills. Fortunately, he is back at his best. His timing is as good as its ever been. There are plenty of jokes about Bethany being inserted into the game as a man, and they all pretty much hit dead on. Karen Gillan’s Martha isn’t exactly pleased with how she is portrayed in the game. In real life, she is much more reserved than her scantily clad avatar. Karen does an excellent job walking the line with being repulsed by herself while embracing the character at the same time. Nick Jonas is surprisingly good in the film. Without having many credits (outside Camp Rock type movies), Nick holds his own with the big names in the movie. Bobby Cannavale is, well, Bobby Cannavale. He plays the bad guy he always plays. He knows what he does and he does it well.
The story is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a cheesy remake of the Robin Williams Jumanji, only updated for the modern age. When I say cheesy, I mean it in the best possible way. It is campy and fun. The jokes are constant and actually work. Even the easy jokes, especially Jack Black’s, land with precision. It is as funny as you would expect with this cast. The action, which comes as fast and constant as the jokes, is also well done. Each character has 3 lives in the game, and when they’re gone, it’s game over. This lends a little gravity to the situation without weighing it down at all. The high schoolers are all transformed into characters that are their exact opposite. Aside from being a comedic tool, they each can learn things from their video game representations. Again, a little cheesy, but there has to be something gained by the characters traveling into the game world.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a little predictable but a lot of fun. Hart, Johnson, Gillan, and Black make an excellent team. They handle the comedy and action perfectly. The run time is just under 2 hours, but it flies by. Since the kids will be on winter break, Jumanji is an excellent choice for a family movie night.