MOVIE REVIEW: The sequel 22 years in the making
HERE'S a shocker: Hollywood has made a sequel to a movie from 22 years ago, hoping to cash in on the nostalgia and an existing intellectual property.
But here's the real shocker: It's actually really entertaining, throwing together four charismatic and funny actors - Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Jack Black, Karen Gillan and Kevin Hart - in a movie that doesn't take itself too seriously.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a direct sequel to the Robin Williams and Kirsten Dunst movie from 1995, even if none of the original cast features.
A year after we leave Williams' Alan Parrish, the troublesome board game is picked up on a beach by a man who takes it home to his son, Alex. Alex, being a modern kind of teen, is a video gamer and dismissive of something that old-fashioned. The magic in the game overhears this and, somehow, morphs into a game cartridge overnight. Alex is sucked into Jumanji just like Williams' Alan did all those years ago.
Twenty-one years later, a group of teens is serving detention and cleaning out the high school basement when they come upon a box with the old video game console and Jumanji cartridge still inserted.
Conveniently, there are exactly four controllers and four game characters to choose from. As soon as they start the game, all four of them are sucked into Jumanji.
It's a clever evolution on the movie's part. Whereas in the original, when the kids from a later era find the game and Jumanji comes out to them, wreaking havoc on the town with giant mosquitos, lions and hippo stampedes, Welcome to the Jungle does the reverse and shows us the other side, of the place Alan spent 26 years.
Landing on their butts in Jumanji, the kids realise they've taken the form of the avatars they've chosen. The nerdy Spencer becomes Dr Bravestone (The Rock), all bulging muscles and smouldering intensity, his character's special power. The jockish Fridge becomes Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart), a short and slow zoologist whose weakness is cake - a weakness that pays off in the most unexpected and delightful way.
Shallow and phone-obsessed Bethany is horrified to find herself as Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black), a male cartographer with decidedly male parts. Thoughtful and shy Martha transforms into Ruby Roundhouse, a kickarse warrior seemingly fond of midriffs. That the movie has Martha comment on Ruby's inappropriate outfit doesn't actually excuse Welcome to the Jungle for dressing Gillan in something so skimpy.
In order to leave the Jumanji and return to the real world, they have to undertake an epic Indiana Jones-esque quest to return a stolen jewel and lift a curse while battling the arch Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale), all with a limited number of respawns.
Welcome to the Jungle isn't some cinematic masterpiece by any stretch but it does what it sets out to do, giving you two hours of silly fun.
And the adults playing teenagers thing works really well, bringing some depth to what are pretty archetypical characters.
It's surprisingly well-paced, the action is tense when it needs to be, the video game tropes are amusing, there's actual character development and the four leads have a really good time riffing with each other. It's a reunion for The Rock and Hart, who established their lively dynamic in Central Intelligence.
Sometimes, all you need is a good laugh and a bit of family-friendly fun.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is in cinemas on Boxing Day.
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