‘Jumanji’ Flips the Script With Comedic ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ Reboot
Immediately, the first question that comes to mind in regards to Sony’s big budget rendition of the classic Robin Williams and Kirsten Dunst 1995 starrer, “Jumanji” is whether or not it is a remake, a reboot, or a sequel. The answer: albeit difficult to narrowly categorize, a pseudo all of the above. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” finds the same board game that wreaked havoc on the characters in the original film tossed under the bed of an unmoved 1990’s teenager. Magically, overnight, the board game transforms into a video game cartridge, because what modern teenager is going to touch a board game?
In an attempt to reinvigorate the canon, the premise of the original is flipped. After the teen inserts the game into a console, he disappears into a strange new setting. Instead of the “Jumanji” world inhabiting our own, we get sucked into the titular jungle. Cut to modern day, where the audience meets four painfully archetype characters stuck inside a room for detention. There is nerdy and awkward Spencer (Alex Wolff); the high school football star Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain); the social media queen Bethany (Madison Iseman); and the smart loner girl Martha (Morgan Turner). But the archetypes are quickly reversed once the four teens discover the “archaic” console and become sucked into the adventurous world of the video game.
In a comedic turn of events, once thrashed into the Jumanji jungle, each character becomes their respective video game avatar. Geeky Spencer is now a hulking Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Fridge is little man Kevin Hart (and yes, his height is perhaps the most overplayed joke of the movie), superficial Bethany is Jack Black (you can find the humor there), and Martha is a kick-ass Karen Gillan. By now audiences are quite familiar with the dynamics that ensue when Johnson and Hart are paired together. The film doesn’t present anything new in that sense, but it really didn’t need to.
After the group’s immersive shift, the film plays out much like a video game. With the ultimate mission of locating a gem hoarded by a villainous Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale). Along their journey, they discover Alex (an enjoyable Nick Jonas), who was the teen sucked into the game back in the ‘90s. The runtime is filled with adventurous scrapes of death, learning the rules of the video game (character’s have multiple lives, right?), and various jungle-embarked barriers. Without overcoming these challenges, the characters will be stuck inside the game forever. Because without stakes, what’s the point?
Director Jake Kasdan (“Bad Teacher” and “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”), known for his slightly offbeat humor, doesn’t waste much time jumping into the fun with the two-hour runtime. For a director whose credits boast bold adult humor, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is a family-fun adventurous slide. With a few bumps along the way, the lush jungle in the world of Jumanji will surely be a pleasurable Christmas tent pole for the child-rushed audiences, or even those looking for a splash of nostalgia.
‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ opens Dec. 20 in theaters nationwide.