Every 90s kid has Jumanji in their top 10 favorite childhood movies. Most 90s kids at least appreciate video games. The combination of the two might seem forced in an attempt to modernize the story and capitalize on the success of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Bluntly, it is; but at least it’s a good attempt.
I didn’t have the highest hopes, I must admit. I can sometimes be one of the bitter people that wishes they didn’t feel the need to do a remake of every good movie from the past. The new Jumanji can be a little cookie cutter at times, but it redeems itself in many ways. The action scenes are actually impressive for the most part. The story sticks to the original as much as possible, even uncovering a few Easter Eggs here and there.
The movie starts with the back story of the new Alan Parish character and the board game version we came to love. Somehow, the ‘energy’ of the game is transferred to a video game the kid starts to play. One of the few holes in the story but not a big deal. You’re then introduced to the main characters in rapid-fire succession. The Breakfast Club cliché group comprised of a jock, nerd, geek, and preppy pretty girl wind up in detention together and eventually play the game. The warping into the game was cool, as a fan of the original. It really felt at times like the writers wanted to stay true to the story of Jumanji.
The kids’ worlds and roles are flipped upside-down when they land on the other side. Johnson is as ‘Rock’ as he’s ever been with his jacked physique and ‘smoldering intensity’. Jack Black plays Bethany, the popular girl. He’s hilarious and plays a high school girl all too well. Hart is a football player who has to take the backseat as a sidekick, something he struggles with until he realizes size and strength isn’t all it takes to succeed. The video game aspect of the story surprisingly plays out very well. The use of NPCs and missions, along with a final level and boss really gives the sequel a sense of originality. It could have missed and fell flat, but it incorporated enough aspects to feel right.
What I think really made the movie good is how well the ensemble worked together. Three of the five main actors have a tendency to overpower movies with their personalities. In Jumanji, they do well at complimenting each other and assuming the roles they’re meant to play. Johnson’s connection with the character he plays in the story is a testament to how far he’s come as an actor. Black nails it as a millennial brat. Hart is type casted as a self-depreciating king of complainers. His jokes hit the mark, but the act has started to become stale. I can’t seem to shake the feeling that he has to be foul-mouthed to get his humor across. It seems out of place at times when he is the only one using that kind of language. Karen Gillian is the least known actress in the movie, but shines bright in a standout performance. Nick Jonas does well in his capacity. He didn’t do too much, and held his own on screen with veterans.
Jumanji had the task of satisfying multiple generations of audiences. That meant finding a way to be original and funny for a wide range of ages. The great part is it does just that. The movie wasn’t perfect, but hit its target of making an action film the whole family can enjoy. Overall, I rate Jumanji an 8. It consistently entertained with little to no lulls and made up for its pitfalls with veteran acting and tried and true humor. If I were to try to improve the movie, I would have liked to see more recalls from the original movie. Some of the creatures or plants that plagued the players from the board game would have pulled the two movies together better. I can recommend this to anyone looking for a night out with the family, or anyone else looking for good, mostly clean fun.