When four students named Spencer Gilpin (Alex Wolff), Bethany Walker (Madison Iseman), Anthony “Fridge” Johnson (Ser’Darius Blain), and Martha Kaply (Morgan Turner) play with a magical video game, they are drawn to the jungle world of Jumanji, where they are trapped as their avatars. To return to the real world, they must finish the game.
It may be difficult to believe, but I have not seen Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle until today. It was one of the most successful films released in 2017, making an incredibly impressive $962.1 million at the box office, and earning great reviews from critics and audiences alike.
The reason why I did not get around to watching it at the time of release was due to many other movies being released at or around the same time, and my time was occupied with those. But with the sequel, subtitled The Next Level, being released this coming Friday, I figured now would be the ideal day to check out this massive blockbuster for myself, and I have to say, I was genuinely impressed.
I had heard a lot about this film, and I am glad to report that the things that were said about it were mostly true. Firstly, the comedy in Welcome to the Jungle is, for the most part, terrific. There are plenty of laughs to be had in this zany adventure and the majority of them did land. Sure, there are occasions in which some of the jokes do not work, but they mostly do.
This is honestly one of the most cleverly written comedies I have seen in quite some time, and I was genuinely shocked by how entertaining this entire movie was. This is the perfect movie to watch on a rainy day, or on a day where you just want to have a load of fun. There is barely a wasted scene here. The screenwriters did an amazing job at keeping things moving, and making sure there was always something of interest happening. That is not to say that there are no moments in which the film pauses and has intricate character moments, because it has those too which was a welcomed surprise.
One of my favorite aspects about this picture was the characters. I absolutely adored seeing Dwayne Johnson act like a high school kid for two hours. It was genuinely hilarious to see all of these A-list actors such as Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan goof around for a while. What also makes these characters so enjoyable to watch on-screen is that they all have their different strengths and weaknesses. For example, Hart’s character Fridge has one of his weaknesses as cake, which we get to see in one of the movie’s funniest sequences. In addition, one of Gillan’s weaknesses is venom, making it that much more intense whenever there are snakes present in the movie.
Something that this film did really well was make it so that there were genuine stakes involved with these characters. Since this is a video game world they are in, some people may think that they can die over and over again and just get respawned back into the world, but that is not the case here at all. In Welcome to the Jungle, each avatar/character only has three lives, and so they have to be incredibly careful not to get themselves into too much danger or else they will lose a life, and therefore, the tension can feel shockingly high at times.
Of course this is not a perfect movie by any means, but it is absolutely a blast to watch. The pacing can be a bit off at times. To be honest, there were some times in which this film did feel like it went on for a bit too long, but gratefully, it is not too much of a problem. Also, the first time we see the Jumanji world, it was a little bit jarring going from the calm and simple Alex Wolff in a simple world to Dwayne Johnson in a jungle.
Also, the main villain here, Professor Russell Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale), is honestly extremely weak. He is quite literally the definition of a cliché, mustache stroking movie villain and what is even more strange, is that he barely gets anything to do here, despite being the film’s main antagonist.
Even still, this was such a delightful movie to watch. There are tons of moments here that were incredibly fun and exciting to watch, and one can only hope that the follow-up will be better, or if not, just as good.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a fast-paced, delightfully entertaining and gleefully funny film with a ton of heart.
Overall Grade: B+
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for adventure action, suggestive content and some language
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Releasing
Running Time: 119 minutes