Beyond the usual blarney about desecrating the corpse of a beloved film, there’s one golden rule for reboots: you need to bring something new to the table. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – where there are both fun and games – does just that, reinventing the original’s board-bound world for a digital generation.
Turning Jumanji into a videogame is such an obvious and ingenious move that it’s a wonder it’s taken 20 years. The concept is used most effectively when it comes to casting, with Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillen all cast against type as the videogame avatars of teenagers who don’t necessarily fit the same mould. They make a great ensemble, and all four show hidden depths to their acting playing a little outside their comfort zones. The obvious scene-stealer is Black, playing as a social-media obsessed teen girl, and having the time of his life.
The most refreshing part of these stereotypes is that they rarely feel mean-spirited, something that’s always at risk when you have middle-aged screenwriters talking down to a younger audience. Each character gets taken down a peg or two, but no one is shamed into rejecting their old lifestyle, they’re just better, more heroic versions of themselves.
If anything, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle plays things a little safe, not exploring the infinite potential of the concept to its fullest. In a videogame world where literally anything can happen, why do so many of the conflicts feel so repetitive and unimaginative?
The mood becomes a little too schmaltzy at times, with director Jake Kasdan caught between embracing a sincere blockbuster tone and skewering it with self-deprecation. The film is at its strongest when it’s not taking itself too seriously, with plenty of laugh out loud moments driving a smart and entertaining action adventure.
CAST: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillen, Rhys Darby, Bobby Cannavale
DIRECTOR: Jake Kasdan
WRITERS: Chris McKenna (screen story by); Chris McKenna, Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, Erik Sommers (screenplay); Chris Van Allsburg (book)
SYNOPSIS: Four teenagers discover an old video game console and are literally drawn into the game’s jungle setting becoming the adult avatars they chose.