By Khaleel Herbert
Jumanji is reincarnated into a video game in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
While in detention four teens with opposite personalities discover a Super Nintendo-esque game cartridge and system. They ponder: What do we do with this dinosaur? A TV sits over yonder. After setting up (because when kids and teens see something, they can’t help but go over to it like a flies to a bug zapper. There’s something wrong with their heads) and choosing their avatars, they’re plugged in…literally plugged in to the world of Jumanji.
Spencer (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) gets a stellar body and is the leader of the group. Fridge (Kevin Hart) is a pint-sized zoologist and Spencer’s backpack-lugging sidekick. Martha (Karen Gillan) plays a karate master in short-shorts and Bethany (Jack Black) is an overweight cartologist who navigates the team.
In order for the teens to get home and into their normal bodies, they must return a magical crystal to the eye of a stone jungle cat in the middle of the woods…and avoid Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale) the man who originally had the crystal to control the animals of Jumanji.
Welcome to the Jungle is the sequel to the 1995 Robin Williams classic. It picks up right where Jumanji left off. The board game was found on a beach and brought back to the states. It takes the form of a video game when its next victim sets it on top of a video game console. It answers the question: What was it like for Robin Williams to be stuck in the Jumanji jungle for 26 years?
The shenanigans and goofiness of Robin Williams and jungle animals let loose on the streets of New Hampshire was a fun time. Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce were little tykes and Bonnie Hunt almost had a heart attack when Williams tricked her into rolling the dice. Good times, good times.
Asking me if I like Welcome to the Jungle or Jumanji is like asking me which set of Star Wars movies I like, George Lucas’ original trilogy or the ones Disney made. They’re both good in their own right (but preferably, I like the George Lucas originals where every one is still young and Darth Vader rules the First Order with an iron fist. Call me old-fashioned if you like. I don’t care!).
There are some positives to Welcome to the Jungle. Kevin Hart and The Rock are back together again, although their relationship isn’t a bromance like 2016’s Central Intelligence. The Rock keeps his swagger, and in practically every movie I’ve seen with The Rock, he punches someone’s lights out. Welcome to the Jungle is no exception and I would not want it any other way (he’s more worthy here than in that God-awful Baywatch that came out this summer).
Karen Gillan (she’s almost abnormal without her Nebula-robotic flesh and black eyes from the Guardians of the Galaxy flicks) delivers butt-whoopings through awkward flirting and dance-fighting (don’t ask). It’s a hoot to see Jack Black act as a female throughout the whole thing, a rare and different performance for Black from the adorable Kung-Fu panda, Po. This team has a good chemistry and drive to get everyone home, including long-time resident, Alex (Nick Jonas), which is admirable and funny. Spoiler alert: Jack Black and Nick Jonas kiss. There. Now you have something to look forward to.
Welcome to the Jungle is no substitute for Jumanji and I don’t believe it wants to be. Think of it as Jumanji’s younger brother who wants to be his own, but still has respect for his older brother.
Studio: Sony (1 hr. 59 min)
Cast: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale, Tracey Bonner
Director: Jake Kasdan
Story: Four different teens get sucked into a video game and must learn teamwork to escape.
Final Score: B