I must admit, I had my doubts after seeing the first couple of trailers for this film. As someone who loved (and was slightly terrified by) the 1995 film, I was worried that this was going to take everything I loved about the original and throw it out the window in favour of a modern blockbuster take. While the film does serve as a very modern iteration, it handles its source material and its new elements extremely well, and far better than I expected.
Directed by Jake Kasdan, the standalone movie begins with a direct connection to the board game from the original film, and its evolution into a 1990s video game with the same purpose: “A Game For Those Who Seek To Find A Way To Leave Their World Behind”. The game claims its first unsuspecting participant in 1996 (one year after the original film’s events) and then time moves forward to 2017, as four high school students stumble upon the game in their school’s basement during detention. They decide they’d rather play the game than be bored in detention, and we all know how that will go… They are sucked into the jungles of Jumanji and must find their way out of the game if they want to survive, with many links to the past along their path.
Jumanji 2 was a pleasant and hilarious surprise, whose pacing and comedy are very well executed. After the students are transported into the game, the film truly does not slow down at all. Mixing moments of heart-pounding action and slapstick teen comedy, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle entertains the whole way through. Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black are all perfect in their roles, and their chemistry carries the film along nicely.
Mixed in with the action are some surprisingly poignant and emotional moments of life motivation, teen romance and redemption. Without spoiling too much about how the plot pans out, I will say that along with the action and humour, it delivers multiple heartwarming conclusions and moments in which characters courageously learn to become the best that they can be.
Overall, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle succeeds in exceeding expectations tremendously. It is aided in its myriad moments by great direction and a unique and fitting musical score to boot. As our adolescent characters overcome a dangerous new world and in the process their own flaws, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle thrills audiences, causes raucous laughter and also warms their hearts.