After the release and popularity of the book in 1981 and the Robin Williams film in 1995, the Jumanji franchise returns in the 21st century, with more action and adventure than ever before. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle begins by showing the lives of four teenagers in Brantford, New Hampshire, who happen to end up together in detention and subsequently embark on an adventure into the video game world of Jumanji. The bulk of the film focuses on the characters’ journey through the video game, as they work together to advance through the levels and save Jumanji while trying to stay alive.
This standalone sequel is a great blend of comedy, action, and adventure. We enter into the world of Jumanji with the characters, feeling their emotions and experiencing the roller coaster of navigating the game with them. Despite the fact that it is an enjoyable time-pass movie, there are some philosophical words of wisdom interspersed in the script here and there. Since the characters embody the roles and bodies of avatars in the video game, there is a clear emphasis on the idea that appearance is not everything. The limited number of lives for each character in the game brings in an additional existential element of only having one life to do what you want to do and be who you want to be.
In any kind of theater, be it cinema or live performance, actors take on roles and bring their characters to life onscreen. In this film, there is an interesting inception of roles within roles, as each teen character and personality exists inside the video game avatar role. So essentially, Dwayne Johnson plays the character and personality of Spencer inside the body and characteristics of Dr. Bravestone. For the adolescent characters in the movie, taking on the roles of Dr. Bravestone, Ruby Roundhouse, Mouse Finbar, and Professor Oberon in the game gives them a different perspective about and insight into their real lives as Spencer, Martha, Fridge, and Bethany.
As someone who has not seen the first Jumanji film, I thoroughly enjoyed this latest edition, which features a stellar star cast of Dwayne Johnson as Spencer, Kevin Hart as Fridge, Karen Gillan as Martha, and Jack Black as Bethany. It was a pleasant surprise to see Nick Jonas onscreen as Alex, the boy who disappeared on account of being stranded in the video game for years. The chemistry and evolution of friendship between Spencer and Fridge is incredible, and Jack Black slays as a self-obsessed teenage girl inside a man’s avatar body. Special shoutout to cinematographer Gyula Pados and the beautiful nature, scenery, and Hawaiian locations where the movie has been filmed.
Final Verdict: Jumanji is an entertaining and humorous flick with an appropriate balance of action-adventure and comedy. It is definitely a little scary in bits with certain scenes that could make you jump out of your seat, but ultimately you may find yourself cheering on the teenage characters within the video game avatars to face their fears and overcome the challenges in front of them. A fun (PG-13) movie that will transport you to another world!