Jungle
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Movie
Director(s): 
In Theatres: 
Dec 20, 2017
Grade:
B+
Running Time: 
119 minutes

I grew up with Jumanji as a children's book. Its illustrative language, adventure, and pulse pounding terror at outrunning truly wild animals was beloved by children of my generation. Growing up with my father and watching animal documentaries in our spare time, Jumanji was infused with a more real and visceral terror than any spooky story. When the first film was released in the holiday season of 1995 I was excited! I couldn't wait to see all the animals brought to life and see the characters on the big screen. It quickly became a classic for kids my age.

I'm sure you can imagine my trepidation when I first saw the trailer for the new Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle sequel. I wasn't sure how it would all work. Including adult actors in lieu of the adolescents that are supposed to be the center of the story really seems like taking away a vital part of the tale. Having been 12 years old in 1995, I think it would have been very hard for me to see myself in any of the characters in this updated sequel. From the trailer it was hard to know what would be respected, what would be retained, and how this would live up to the original. Wonderfully, this sequel strikes the balance of creating something new while respecting the original material.

Welcome to the Jungle takes place one year after the end of the original movie. The game is discovered on a beach and is taken home to the children of the house. But when it is picked up it is quickly disregarded by the legit question, “Who plays board games anymore?” This somehow magically inspires the board game to become a video game cartridge. Once all the players are chosen, the adventure begins as they're all sucked into the video game and the consequences of Jumanji.

Although the teenage actors do disappear within the first 15 minutes of the film to be replaced by the adult actors that were all more familiar with, they are clearly not actually adults. So much of the wonderful humor included in this movie comes from these adults acting like their teenage counterparts. Their portrayals are so well pitched you never for a moment believe they are anything other than teens. These adult bodied teens learn lessons about friendship, teamwork, being yourself, and seeing past superficial presentation.

Jack Black is hysterical, but not cruel in his portrayal of cell phone obsessed Bethany. Presented first as a shallow, vapid popular girl, Black is able to layer depth. Kevin Hart is his usual, yelling, slapstick self, but thanks to the ensemble cast his performance isn't overwhelming. Karen Gillan as Martha/Ruby Roundhouse (Killer of Men) takes the literal journey from teen to woman while bonding with Bethany, dance fighting, & critiquing her avatar's outfit. Dwayne Johnson flourishes with self-deprecation motivated by the insecurities of the teenage boy that inhabits him.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a a surprisingly good pick for your holiday movie session with your family. It is appropriate for kids, although perhaps older ones, the violence is bloodless and cartoonish and there is some body humor (handled off screen). It is far more silly and less dark (no parents dying from grief of their missing children) than its on screen predecessor.

Jumanji. A game for those who seek to find a way to leave their world behind.

Maria Jackson
Review by Maria Jackson
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