Note: This is a spoiler-free Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle review
Jumanji is a nineties classic. There’s no two ways about that fact. And when rebooting a classic, production companies need to be careful. With great success comes Jurassic World. With great failure comes The Mummy. Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle doesn’t necessarily try to recreate the original, but it’s hard to get it out of my head nonetheless.
Using comedy and action as a crutch, Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle lacks story and proves inferior to the original. As a standalone film, it’s a viable popcorn holiday movie.
If you’re looking for a comedy standout, look for further than Kevin Hart. Everyone takes a shot at their own jokes, but Hart stands head and shoulders above the rest as zoologist Moose Finbar. The juice of Welcome To The Jungle comes from one-liners, and Hart delivers those with excellence. He features a little physical comedy as well, which adds to the character.
While Hart stands out the most, the clear protagonist of Welcome To The Jungle is Dr. Smolder Bravestone, played by Dwayne Johnson. Part of the film’s charm is four high school kids getting sucked into the game and playing characters that are the opposite of who they are in real life. That is never clearer than with avatar Bravestone and his high school player, Spencer. Bravestone is an overwhelming hero with no weaknesses, while Spencer is afraid of Squirrels. That contrast has Johnson playing a terrified boy inside a man’s body at times, which makes for some good laughs.
Johnson and Hart have great chemistry both on and off camera, and that dynamic shines in Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle.
The two avatar characters play a role-reversal with high schoolers controlling them, which makes for a funny dynamic between the two. Here lies the hero-sidekick relationship of many action-adventure movies.
Also of note is Jack Black, who plays professor Shelly Oberon. In case you didn’t know before, Shelly can be both a girl and a boy’s name. That is the issue for young Bethany, who is the popular girl in high school and thinks she picked an avatar of the same sex. To her surprise, her character actually looks like Jack Black. I said Bravestone and Spencer are the biggest contrasts in character, but I probably lied. As a result, we get Black playing an 18-year-old, superficial girl.
Black’s jokes are hit and miss, but the ones that hit are some of the funniest in the film. He also has a running joke involving the contrast between avatar and player that plays very well.
A Story Lost In The Trees
You may notice I’ve talked all about Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle’s comedy so far and mentioned nothing about, well, Jumanji itself. There’s a reason for that. The movie is, for a lack of a better term, corny. Really corny actually. The writing is pretty subpar and the story development isn’t really there, but what can you expect from a Jumanji reboot, I guess. No hurt feelings there. The film does go for multiple heartfelt moments, however, and none of them land. The story of the game feels rushed as well. The entire story feels a bit forced.
I will give credit for the effort in a callback to the first Jumanji — there is a cool homage there to look out for.
Should I Go See Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle?
Comedy, action, and adventure good! Story, development, and serious moments not so good. In other words, popcorn movie. If you’re a fan of Johnson, Hart, Black, or just turning your brain off for two hours go for it. Otherwise, wait for the online release.