Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Review: Adventure Comedy Done Right!
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’s plot is similar to the that of the Robin Williams cult classic. The film opens in 1996, which is one year after the release of the original. The plot immediately addresses how in 1996 teenagers don’t play board games anymore and are obsessed with video games. The Jumanji board game turns into a video game which prompts Alex (Nick Jonas) to try the game. Alex ends up playing the game and instead of showing what happens, the film jumps to the present day where Spencer, Martha, Bethany, and Fridge are all introduced. The four end up in detention together which is where they discover an old video game system in the basement of their school. They hook the system up, select their characters, and voila, the four of them end up in the game of Jumanji as the avatars that they selected.
I grew up watching family-friendly adventure comedies. Films like Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, The Goonies, and Jumanji are just a few of the films that I would watch on repeat throughout my childhood and as a teenager. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a family adventure comedy with some edge. The script is self-aware and knows who its audience is. This isn’t a family film that is targeted towards little kids but rather for those at least eight and above. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is best suited for middle schoolers, teenagers, and adults. This isn’t a Disneyfied family comedy but one with a good chunk of adult humor mixed in. There are jokes about having a penis and “wanting to hit that” but they fit the tone of the film. The five screenwriters have found the perfect balance of infantile humor and creative humor that provides several big laughs from start to finish.
The plot of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is simplistic but that works in the film’s favor. I really liked how the film was more focused on developing its characters and explaining how the game of Jumanji works rather than having a complicated and convoluted plot. In my opinion, adventure films work best when the plot is straightforward which is exactly the case with this one. I love how the screenwriters embraced the idea of being inside a game. There are secondary characters who just show up and say their lines, there are infoboxes that appear to explain each of the characters strengths and weaknesses, and there are even some side-stories that explain the goals of their mission. These scenes all work great in the film because they solidify the concept that they are part of a video game.
Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan are all perfectly cast. Each of these actors commits to the material and becomes their character. The screen time is pretty evenly divided among the actors and each of them get their moment to shine. The script as I said earlier is very character driven so the actors aren’t just thrown into a video game with no backstory. They must work together and learn about each other in order to beat the game. These actors have amazing chemistry and bounce off one another with such ease.
Dwayne Johnson plays Dr. Smolder Bravestone and it is great watching Johnson tackle a role like this because it showcases how versatile he is as an actor. Most people would probably agree when I say that Johnson is naturally charismatic. However, with this role, he continues to use his charm while exploring his range as a comedic actor. Johnson plays a nerdy teenager stuck in a body of a macho man. It’s pretty remarkable how easily Johnson pull this off, not to mention that his performance is a perfect balance of heart, humor, and awkwardness. I totally understand why Johnson has become one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood. He can pretty much play any role from an action hero to an awkward teenager. Johnson will be around for a long time and I am glad that he is making sure that he isn’t typecast to one particular role.
The role of Moose Finbar is a great fit for Kevin Hart because it seems like it was written with him in mind. Kevin Hart pretty much plays Kevin Hart but it works because the script is built around Finbar being loud and obnoxious. Hart and Johnson starred alongside each other in 2016’s Central Intelligence which proved that these two actors have great on-screen chemistry. That dynamic chemistry is just as good here. There isn’t much to say about Hart’s character because he is essentially how you would imagine Kevin Hart acting if he was stuck in a jungle. Don’t get me wrong Hart gets some big laughs especially the one scene involving cake but this isn’t anything that we haven’t seen from him before.
Karen Gillan owns the screen as Ruby Roundhouse. I have always been a fan of Gillan and love that this film allows her to have fun while giving her character purpose. It is sort of an understatement to say that Gillian is gorgeous so watching her playing a teenager who doesn’t see her beauty didn’t seem like the ideal fit but somehow Gillan pulls it off. I love the scenes where Shelly Oberon (Jack Black) teaches her how to flirt and act sexy. It just so funny watching Jack Black show Karen Gillan how to flirt. The situation only gets more humorous when the others add in their own commentary.
While everyone is great in the film, it is Jack Black who steals the show. Let’s just say that Black embraces his feminine side for the role of Shelly Oberon. This is the funniest Jack Black performance that I have seen in a long time. He oddly enough disappears and becomes a teenage girl who just so happens to look like a middle-aged fat guy. Every line was perfectly delivered and Black just looked like he was having the time of his life in this film. I normally don’t laugh at penis jokes but the way that Black delivered his lines in this film made it impossible not to laugh.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a ton of fun and a total blast from beginning to end. It is so refreshing to see that film doesn’t rely on nostalgia but instead does its own thing while incorporating some references to the original. There is a small tribute to the late great Robin Williams at one point in the film. It is very subtle but is also incredibly effective. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle knows what it is and doesn’t try to be anything that it isn’t. It is the perfect family comedy for the holidays and one that is sure to leave audiences with a huge smile on their faces as they exit the theater.
Scott ‘Movie Man’ Menzel’s rating for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is an 8 out of 10.