Twenty-two years ago, a film by the name of Jumanji was all the rage amongst children. Even to this day, I cannot forget my ten-year-old self marvelling at its adventurous and colourful jungle world. If I were to watch it today, I have a strong suspicion that Robin Williams’ over-the-top antics and sheer screen presence still possesses enough power to bring a smile to my face. While Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle does not compare to its predecessor, it is a fairly worthy tribute to Williams. It is easy to categorise it as a bit too cheesy and cliché-ridden in parts, but that kind of characterisation fails to take into cognisance the equally humorous bits and the outstanding chemistry on show between the leads. Say what you may about Dwayne Johnson’s acting prowess, but one can’t deny the man has great comic timing. Add Jack Black and Kevin Hart to the mix, and you have yourself some seriously funny moments in this unstoppable ride of a sequel.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a 60:40 sort of adventure film, where the good parts outweigh the not-so-good ones. As soon as the high school kids have been inadvertently sucked into the game, the coming to terms with their new reality is a sight to behold. The kids’ assumption of their new game avatars is one of the absolute comedic highlights of Part 2; it is one of those scenes that can make even the most straight-faced person crack up.
The adventure ride brings the estranged friends and acquaintances from high school closer together as they undertake superhuman tasks in their new reality, but the humour is never lost. Despite its sometimes overly simplistic dialogue and predictable course, the film ought to be forgiven for many of the good things it brings to the table.
In 1996, a teenager is presented with a strange board game called Jumanji. His first taste of the game leads to his disappearance. Twenty years after those unexplained events, four kids from the same neighbourhood are placed in detention for a variety of follies committed in their local high school. First, there’s Spencer - a video-game loving and bookish boy who has been writing essays for his former friend, Anthony “Fridge” Johnson. Fridge is having trouble balancing his athletic and academic life in school.
Then, there’s Bethany, a popular and self-obsessed teenager with an addiction to her phone. Finally, there’s Martha, a socially awkward and intelligent outcast. During detention, they happen upon an unknown tape-recorder type of gadget which they proceed to hook up to the old TV in the basement. As each of them reluctantly selects a character, the game sucks them into the world of Jumanji. At first, the four are unsure of their new world and its demands. But as they begin to understand and accept their avatars, it becomes clear that survival can only be attained by winning the game.
The transformation scene has Spencer turning into Dr. Smolder Bravestone – a heroic antithesis of the former. To the great amusement of his peers, Dr Bravestone has a long list of abilities (from courage to charisma) and no weaknesses. But it is his unusual ability to smoulder every now and then that is uproarious. Fridge’s avatar is Franklin “Mouse” Finbar. Much to Fridge’s dismay, Mouse is a sort of sidekick to Dr. Bravestone. Bethany turns into Professor Sheldon Oberon, a middle-aged and obese man with a range of expertise from cartography to palaeontology.
Ruby Roundhouse is Martha’s avatar in the game, and she is a lithe martial artist who specialises in dance fighting. Apart from Dwayne Johnson’s smouldering moments and the lead characters coming to terms with their ridiculous realities, Jack Black tutoring Karen Gillan in the art of flirtation is something to behold. Humour, chemistry, and banter among its four principal stars succeed in making Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle a decent successor.