Well, I finally got around to watching Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the latest piece of evidence in Rock “The Dwayne” Johnson’s ongoing efforts to legally prove that he’s capable of reinvigorating literally any franchise. Apparently, the argument has resonated with audiences: the film has spent the past several months raking in mountains of dough, outlasting even The Last Jedi in theaters. And it’s not difficult to see why—it’s a fun little crowd-pleaser, delivering solid thrills, laughs, and (surprisingly enough) characterization.
The premise couldn’t be simpler: four stereotypical teenagers (nerd, jock, Valley girl, plain Jane) are sucked into a cursed video game, where they’re forced to inhabit avatars that represent the polar opposites of their personalities (intrepid explorer, diminutive sidekick, pudgy cartographer, and badass beauty, respectively). As they struggle to navigate the treacherous levels before their three lives run out, they gradually learn to work together and become the best possible versions of themselves. Naturally, the situation lends itself to copious slapstick and vulgar humor, but the actors (clearly having a blast with their dual roles) elevate the material. The Rock and Jack Black are particularly good at playing up their characters’ inherent contradictions, though Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan also excel, especially in their more dramatic scenes.
Ultimately, Jumanji is neither perfect nor revolutionary, but it’s eminently enjoyable as lightweight entertainment. It’s cinematic junk food, but it’s closer to hot wing flavored Doritos than regular old corn chips; you get a bit of extra spice for your money.
[Originally written March 11, 2018.]