Jake Kasdan (son of Lawrence Kasdan) takes over the director reins from Joe Johnston who made the original JUMANJI movie where back when with the late Robin Williams. JUMANJI WELCOME TOTHE JUNGLE is a stand-alone sequel paying tribute to Williams.
Kasdan’s lazy script is cliche ridden with the typical fairy tale adventure aimed at pre-teens. The story is nothing remarkable. It all begins when a father discovers a hidden boardgame covered in the sand while jogging on the beach. He gives it to his son, Alex who is more interested in video games (the year is 1996). Overnight, the game changes so that the box’s contents are now a video game cartridge, but when Alex puts it in his console and turns it on, he vanishes.
20 years later, a high school detention group finds the video game in the detention room . They decide to play the game, each player taking on a game character. They get sucked into the game each transforming into the game character they picked, The premise is that they have to win the game in order to get back out of the game to their normal lives.
The four game players are Spencer Gilpin (transformed into Dwayne Johnson), his former best friend, Anthony “Fridge” Johnson (Kevin Hart), who he helped with his homework by writing Fridge’s essays for him. The other two are Bethany Walker (yes, Jack Black), a beautiful girl who was caught talking on her phone during a quiz and Martha Kaply (Karen Gillian), a socially awkward girl who objected to being made to participate in gym class.
They find themselves in a jungle, all four are shaken to realize that they have become the avatars they chose for the game, with the result that Fridge is now a short zoologist, Bethany is now an overweight middle-aged man, Martha is a beautiful athletic woman, and Spencer is a muscular, tough man. The group encounter Nigel, who lays claim to the legendary gem, the “Jaguar’s Eye”. The removal of the gem from the large jaguar statue will grant the villain Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale) control over the animals of Jumanji. In order to complete the game, the players must return the gem to the jaguar statue and call out “Jumanji”.
As a game movie, the under-exciting Jumanji game is overlooked for the villain Van Pelt and his motorcycle gang. The game contains several levels that the players must complete, a missing piece in the form of Alex (Nick Jonas) and a few other uninteresting bits. But the motorcycle chases are not much more exciting either.
The cliched story involves each high school charter learning to be better people while transformed into their avatars. Fridge and Spencer learn the meaning of true friendship, Bethany learns that there is a world outside herself and her cell phone while Martha develops social skills.
The film takes a while to secure a footing. What makes the film work is the great ensemble acting from all the main stars. Black turns out to be the funniest as the transformed Bethany still possessing her girly mannerisms. The funniest segment is Black teaching Gillian how to be sexy and seduce the transport guards and her after performing what she had learnt.
The film is more suited to a younger crowd, who appear to be cheering and laughing thigh the promo screening. For adults, the film should also be enjoyable enough.