The original Jumanji is a film that is best remembered for its amazing performance by Robin Williams and the novel concept, which worked for 1996. This year’s sequel is the welcome follow up that takes the premise and translates it into a modern context, and makes a lot of great creative decisions in bringing the story to life. Jumani: Welcome to the Jungle takes the original’s “board game come to life” concept and puts it into a video game, and thankfully the rules of the world are kept simple enough to bring out the comedy.
Unlike the first film, the sequel pits four teenagers into a video game world, where they are taken over by their game personas, played by Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan. This allows these actors to have more fun with the roles by playing against type, and by letting the performers become more vulnerable, there’s a lot of comedy to be found. The plot itself is fairly straightforward, with some clever story techniques revolving around the nature of video games, but its the character interaction that really makes the film so enjoyable.
Johnson and Gillan do well playing awkward, nerdy types trapped in the bodies of action stars, and while Hart is mostly doing his traditional schtick, he’s used the perfect amount in order to maximize the comedy. There are some easy jokes, but the dialogue is overall pretty strong and there’s some surprisingly clever running gags. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle works a lot better than it had any right to work, and for something that had the potential to be another retread of a popular title, the film carves its own mythology and elevates the premise into an enjoyable, and very funny experience. Grade: B