Review: 'Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle,' Enjoyable From The First Drumbeat Until The Last

It has been too long since we got to hear the familiar sounds of beating drums - a sound that 90s children will instantly recognize. More than 20 years later and we finally get our chance to pick up the games pieces (or controllers) and get transformed into the world of Jumanji.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle tells the story of four high schoolers who have all found themselves in detention one way or another. Spencer (Alex Wolff) is a nerd who loves to play video games but has been caught writing papers and homework assignments for his childhood friend Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain). Fridge is now a star athlete at the school and his only interest in his friendship with Spencer is the homework assignments that he gets Spencer to write for him. Bethany (Madison Iseman) is the popular girl whose life revolves around what others think about her and her social media presence. Lastly, there is Martha (Morgan Turner), the reserved girl who doesn’t know how to talk to boys and is so focused on her future career and learning that she doesn’t ever try. During their stay in detention, they stumble upon a weird looking video game system. Much like times have changed since 1995 when the first Jumanji captivated audiences across the world, the second installment in this universe has also experienced an evolution of its own. Instead of a board game with game pieces and dice, we now have a Nintendo knock off Jumanji game to play.

The four troublemakers plug the game in, choose their characters – and before they know it, they get sucked into the magical jungle world of Jumanji. While in the game, the four of them take on the characters that they have selected. Spencer is Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson), Fridge is Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart), Bethany is Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black), and Martha is Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). This is where the fun begins. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is able to successfully take this scenario, featuring a ton of star power, and have these actors and actresses play the teenagers stuck in their bodies. This leads to constant laughs and hijinks throughout the film. The movie also succeeds in the idea that the whole film takes place in a video game. We are taken through different missions, interact with NPC (non-playable characters), and truly feel like we are watching these characters actually live through a video game. While in the game, our four protagonists each have three lives – which are depicted by vertical lines tattooed on their forearms. They quickly find out that the evil Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale) has stolen a jewel from a giant jaguar statue’s eye which has put an evil curse upon all of Jumanji. In order to win the game and return home, they must bring back the jewel to the statue and shout ‘JUMANJI’ before their lives run out. The four of them must learn to work together, get over their differences, use their character’s powers, and grow up in this jungle world if they want to make it back home.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle left me wondering – would this movie be received better if it was not tied to the Jumanji universe? The first movie is a beloved film and arguably a classic. Making another Jumanji film may lead many to have a bad taste in their mouths and for them to always compare Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle to the original, which is a monumental hurdle to overcome. On the other hand, adding another film to the world of Jumanji will be a draw in and of itself, something that must have had Hollywood execs chomping at the bits. There is enough star power in the film with The Rock, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan that the film would have done well regardless – but it is still unclear if making it a Jumanji film helped or hurt it. Jumanji: Welcome to The Jungle is full of enough laughs, action, and adventure that it would have been able to stand on its own as an enjoyable Hollywood blockbuster. We’ll never know how it would have done as its own separate film, but regardless of that, it is an entertaining ride that children and adults of all ages should be able to appreciate.

Rating: 4 out of 5