It begins with Spencer (Alex Wolf), the nerdy, shy kid in school, who loves video games, but gets himself in trouble when the paper he wrote for his one-time friend and star athlete Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain) lands the two of them in detention. Meanwhile, the self-involved Bethany (Madison Iseman) and isolated loner Martha (Morgan Turner) join the boys after they both mouth off to separate teachers. The foursome take their after school punishments and when Fridge finds an old video game system, they hook it to a TV, and become sucked into the game of adventure Jumanji.
Much of the films entertainment and humor lies in the fact that our four characters become avatars that are complete opposites of who they are. That is also all this movie has. Their video game names don't really matter, but Spencer becomes the massively strong Dwayne Johnson. Fridge is the short in stature Kevin Hart, Martha becomes the beautiful and confident Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy 2), and the pretty teen Bethany becomes Jack Black. Your enjoyment of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle hangs in your ability to find humor in this, especially Black's performance which is one joke, hammered into the ground, complete with “oh my god I have a penis” style gags. The journey for these four takes a backseat to desperate attempts to get everyone to laugh.
One of the major problems with Jake Kasdan's direction and the screenplay from four different writers Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, and Jeff Pinkner, is that instead of making the jungle come alive, they expect us to just enjoy the lively actors. I'm a fan of everyone here, but they're often standing around, bickering at one another, and killing any momentum earned in the early action. Johnson is one of Hollywood's biggest stars, yet I still haven't seen a movie that knows how to use him. Hart's comedic timing is wasted, Black is reduced to one joke, and Gillan is the lone ass-kicking star. All of her scenes show an actor on the rise to greater things.
Granted, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle has a fresh outlook, injecting a video game CGI look, making it a journey of skill, where each character has three lives to survive the rugged terrain. But like other unnecessary sequels, the 95' Jumanji had an original, magical flare that is never matched. Bobby Cannavale is the games hunting villain and he's so insignificant that I barely succeeded at mentioning him. The things that scare audiences, such as spiders or gators came alive in the original, and the wonder we had as children for escaping the real world was what made the risk of playing the game worth it. Plus, it had Robin Williams and nothing can top that. Sorry, Rock.
The final result is a movie that moves slow, like a walk through muddy waters, and annoyed me more than anything. It's bad enough that the run-time is close to two hours, but the laughs are too little, the scares are non-existent, and the adventure is as meandering as a walk around the block. We never needed a sequel to Jumanji and now that we have it, I'd say it's game over.
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
STARRING: DWAYNE JOHNSON; KEVIN HART; JACK BLACK; KAREN GILLAN
DIRECTED BY: JAKE KASDAN
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
It's hard to understand why Hollywood thought we needed a semi-sequel to the 1995 Robin Williams hit Jumanji? But, here we are, and instead of trying to capture the magical wonder from a board game, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle sends four teenagers into a video game adventure that includes a lot of lame jokes and little thrills. With a cast of actors that have charmed us countless times before, director Jake Kasdan thinks having Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart stand around in the amazon jungle, with a few CGI snakes is enough to keep us entertained. It's not. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a game you don't want to play.