‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ Review

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Sony Pictures)

I must have been about 9-years-old when the original Jumanji was released. I still remember negotiating with my mom, promising to do all my chores and more, if we could go see it in theaters. Which is funny because I had no idea what it was about. All I knew was that Robin Williams was in it, and that was good enough for me. In my eyes, he was Peter Pan, the Genie and Mrs. Doubtfire all wrapped in one. Which is why I was so apprehensive about the Jumanji reboot – I didn’t want to see a movie so universally loved soiled by a another emotionless reboot. Fortunately, and to my great surprise, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is hilariously entertaining and did what all reboots should: let the original be and create something new.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Sony Pictures)

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a lighthearted adventure the follows the unlikely journey of four extremely different high school students after they stumble upon a unknown video game console and a single game – Jumanji. After turning the system on and selecting their avatars, Jumanji begins – only this time the players are sucked into the game, assuming the likeness and abilities of the characters they chose. Much like in the original film, the only way to get home is to play the game, which in this case, is to save Jumanji from the evil Van Pelt, played by Bobby Cannavale. Sounds like every gamer’s dream, right?

The film gets a lot of mileage out of its Freaky Friday-like body swapping. Super nerd Spencer, played by Alex Wolff, assumes the body of Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson). Football star and childhood friend of Spencer, known as Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), becomes Moose Finbar, a.k.a., Kevin Hart. Social outcast Martha assumes the body of Ruby Roundhouse, played by the increasingly popular Karen Gillan. And finally, saving the best for last, the popular and phone-obsessed Bethany becomes Professor Shelly Oberon, played by none other than the lovable Jack Black, who pretty much steals the show. He has the voice, walk and emotion down-pat, leading you to believe he may actually be a 16-year-old, self-obsessed teen. Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite and most memorable Jack Black performances.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Sony Pictures)

Now, the movie isn’t without it’s faults. For the first time since they got together, I found myself getting a little bored with the Johnson-Hart combo. Don’t get me wrong, they’re both great actors, and I love seeing them in movies; I just don’t want to see them in the same ones anymore. The mammoth/tiny man dynamic is starting to getting a little stale. I mean, what’s next, Kevin Hart joining the cast of Black Adam? All jokes aside, without Johnson and Hart, it would have been extremely difficult to draw the level of interest the reboot needed to be successful.

I also wasn’t terribly impressed with Gillan’s character, but that might be because she also starred in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 earlier this year, taking the character Nebula to a whole new level. Not only that, in Welcome to the Jungle she plays a really socially awkward teenage girl, which registers as a bit cringe-inducing at times. One suspects that her performance will likely improve after a second viewing.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Sony Pictures)

The first film gave us a taste, but the reboot brings the world of Jumanji to life. Director Jake Kasdan has created a world that is colourful and beautiful, but at the same time dangerous, as almost every creature, person, plant or … cake, might kill you. I was really impressed with the level of detail and CGI that went into Welcome to the Jungle, which is not something that can often be said for films of this nature. 

From Jack Black’s shockingly accurate portrayal of 16-year-old girl to Kevin Hart being trampled by a herd of stampeding albino rhinos, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle pays homage to the original, while creating something fun and exciting for the new generation. While I do think it’s time for the Rock and Hart to go their separate ways (cinematically speaking) they, along with Gillan, Nick Jonas, and Black did a wonderful job bringing their characters to life. Director Joe Johnston brought Jumanji to life in 1995, and 22-years later, Jake Kasdan reminds use all why we feel in love with Jumanji in the first place. It’s the kind of reboot that will have your kids wanting to watch the original. At the end of the day, what more can you ask for?

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Sony Pictures)


Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is surprisingly entertaining take on a classic that'll push you find and dust off your old VHS collection.