Few films have captured the adventurous and light spirit as well as Jumanji (1995). When a sequel to the fun work of the 1990s was announced in 2012, much was feared about the direction the film would take: whether the movie would rely heavily on “nostalgism,” taking advantage of the brand to make a little money and setting the quality aside, watch now the new movie and see if those fears had come to reality.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, thankfully, usually doesn't appeal to cheap nostalgia, nor does it try to remind you, recurrently, that this is a sequel to a 90's movie. The feature has a microcosm and a tone of its own, more more like current comedies than Robin Williams' Jumanji - which may be a problem depending on your expectation. The new version distances itself far from the original work of Chris Van Allsburg, the author of the book, and only keeps small references, justifying the definition as a sequel, and attracting the older audience who watched the original.
In its second version, Jumanji is no longer a board game. In fact, the game received an update and was transmuted into a video game to suit the new generation. Unlike the original movie, Welcome to the Jungle is divided into two very distinct parts: one featuring the characters in the real world and one with their respective avatars within the video game.
In the first half hour, director Jake Kasdan of Freaks and Geeks shines brightly: the four characters are quickly presented in a fun and light rhythm, reminiscent of much from The Club of Five and the Evil Girls. Teenagers are the usual high school clichés: the athlete, the nerds, and the popular girl. The way the script works on ordinary characters is interesting at times, but most of the time, it's as superficial as the characters themselves. After several school events, the four young people are taken to detention, find the Jumanji game and get sucked into the video game.
The roles are reversed creating good opportunities for humor: real-life geeks become Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) and Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillian), the game's strong characters. Already the popular receive the support avatars: the athlete is reduced to embodying Bravestone biologist and henchman Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart), while the beloved girl in school enters the skin of cartographer Shelly Oberon (Jack Black).
The body-changing gimmick provides good material for actors to play with, and much of the opening joke about it works. It's fun to see The Rock startling at its muscles and not knowing how to act in battle, but Jack Black steals the scene in the movie. Playing an egotistical girl, the actor creates very funny mannerisms and delivers a comical interpretation just right, with conscious exaggerations that amuse and almost never fall into someone else's shame - something that could easily happen to such a character.
Humor varies greatly in both tone and quality. The Rock duo and Kevin Hart head the movie with the same kind of comedy we saw in A Spy and a Half: lots of jokes with their size difference, Hart screaming thin in trouble, jokes with sex organs and so on. Although not strictly bad, the duo is the weaker comic part of the long. Gillian's controversial character is in the middle ground - she has her moments and the girl's constant dissatisfaction with her avatar's provocative look develops a critique of the objectification of the woman's figure in games and entertainment as a whole.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle uses the fact that the characters are jokingly caught in a video game, not taking themselves seriously. There are many times when Chris McKenna's script by LEGO Batman has fun with basic clichés that only make sense in games. The film laughs at cutscenes coming in and making the characters confused, deliberately expository NPC dialogues to play with the way video game characters are written, among many other virtuous jokes with the media.
Although it is not taken seriously, the work sins on several points: the villain is bad, there is no development, let alone a motivation beyond the beaten and poor "rule the world". Many jokes are constantly repeated, which makes the mood tiring at times; the writers also seem to disbelieve the viewer's ability and explain extremely basic things about the plot over and over and in the most silly ways possible. The script takes many unnecessary turns, to the point that unfounded challenges are created in the final half of the film. The impression is that the team wanted to create new situations just to lengthen the adventure and give more epic and crazy scenes to The Rock.
The script choices, of always following the easiest ways to resolve conflicts, create a movie that is unlikely to mark an epoch, like the original feature. It is a clearly unpretentious pastime that does not respect the intelligence of the audience itself at some important moments, watch online Jumanji: Welcome to The Jungle to find out if the movie it's worth its title.