Movie Review: Jumanji

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is something special: it is a sequel that doesn’t suck. Let’s face it – it was unlikely that someone could top Robin Williams or the comedy-horror that we all felt as a kid when we watched the original. Many sequels and remakes tend to fall flat with viewers, with a number of them being so terrible they wound up tainting the origin and ruining their franchise. When a sequel to the much beloved Jumanji was announced, many people were understandably skeptical.

So instead, the movie does its own thing – and it works. The basis of the movie is still the same: a group of kids get pulled into playing a game that is more dangerous than it seems. In this version, however, the kids get pulled into playing a video game instead of a board game. In the comical but creepy opening scene, a boy brings home the Jumanji board game but then remarks that “nobody plays board games anymore” and promptly throws the board game under his bed, already forgotten. Jumanji then changes itself to a format the boy is more familiar with. Obviously intrigued, he reaches down to play it – and then disappears.

As the movie goes on, we see that once the kids pick their avatar, they get sucked into the game. Their bodies change to match their avatars and their environment changes to match the theme of the game. This leads to a number of humorous moments when the group first gets to the game – like the nerdy main character realizing he looks like The Rock or the popular girl realizing she looks like Jack Black.

The movie is definitely more comedic than the original, relying often – though always humorously – on the body switch the teenagers’ experience, and the gag never gets stale. Honestly, you haven’t lived until you watch Jack Black convincingly act like a teenage girl and attempt to teach former model Karen Gillan the art of seduction.

Of course, that’s not to say it wasn’t just a little bit disturbing – with updated CGI and effects, the animals looked more real and more terrifying. The human villains could also look much creepier as well, with a number of special effects done on the villain’s face to make him look more monstrous.

It does have a number of sly references that you’ll get of course – most notably that Nick Jonas’ character is living in a hut implied to be the one Alex Parrish lived in while he was stuck in the jungle. There’s also a recurring theme of elephant statues similar to the game piece that Sarah uses. But the references aren’t too heavy-handed nor do they distract from the movie.

All in all, it’s a fun movie that doesn’t try to hard to be exactly the same as the original. Instead, it takes it’s own route to a surprisingly touching ending for its characters, and does so with beautiful special effects and hilarious acting.

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