By Trina Bernal
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle provides a surprisingly fun, and at times thoughtful experience that audiences are sure to enjoy. This highly-anticipated film boasts a star-studded cast, including The Rock (Dwayne Johnson), Doctor Who actress Karen Gillan, Kung Fu Panda voice actor Jack Black, and comedian Kevin Hart. This film is rated 75% by critics on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as a notable 90% by the audience members. It’s a top-box film earning currently $19.6 million.
Jumanji’s standalone sequel picks up where the 1995 entry ended, in which the Jumanji board game is in the sand and kids run by. Alex Vreeke (played by Mason Guccione) is the unwitting inheritor, but quickly pushes away the board game in favor of his 90’s game system. Unfortunately, the game refuses to be ignored, instead evolving into a video game cartridge. After getting sucked into the game and lost to the world Alan Parrish style, the timeline fast-forwards to present day to meet the rest of the cast.
Four teenagers, Spencer (Alex Wolff), Anthony/Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), Bethany (Madison Iseman) and Martha (Morgan Turner) discover this odd game in their school basement during detention, where they too are transported in the Jumanji 2.0 game—Spencer plays the buff game protagonist Dr. Smolder Bravestone (The Rock), Fridge plays Franklin ‘Mouse’ Finbar the wimpy weapons valet (Kevin Hart), Bethany plays the “curvy genius” Professor Sheldon ‘Shelly’ Oberon (Jack Black), and Martha plays expert dance-fighter Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). The four are now faced with the reality of working together, in spite of their varying personalities and social class, to place the “Jaguar’s Eye” jewel back to its rightful jaguar statue. And even with all this, they have to avoid being intercepted by the offense, enemy named Russel Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale).
This is undeniably a fun film, paying tribute to late actor Robin Williams who played main character Alan Parrish in the original Jumanji (1995). What I particularly like about this film is how the actors don’t overdo playing against type. The characters address obvious differences between themselves and their given avatars, but that’s as far as it goes, they don’t over-elaborate, over-emphasize, or over-ponder on it and they all focus in on the matter at hand: THEY ARE STUCK IN A VIDEO GAME HOW WILL THEY GET OUT. It also is noteworthy to mention there is barely any comparison between the two films. Besides the sequel having a titular name, the writers wrote the story in a way that makes it stand out without having to rely on its precedent film. Instead the sequel embraces itself enough that the audience can separate the two belonging under the one Jumanji movie enterprise umbrella.
For the other 24% who rated it “rotten” on Rotten Tomatoes, people the likes of Detroit News critic Adam Graham would say the sequel “makes the original ‘Jumanji’ look like a towering cinematic achievement.” Graham noted the sequel resembled a product where “spare parts don’t go together” like how misfits Spencer and Martha finally found love in one another, but it only fit when “the misfits” looked like famous celebrities Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan. And then Cinemixtape reviewer J. Olson rated it 1.5 out of 5 stars, for its overuse of “body swap theatrics”, like a grown man (Jack Black) playing a teenage girl named Bethany.
However to all Jumanji enthusiasts’ delight, some critics like where this movie premise is going. For example, Salon critic Matthew Rosza says the film references the original enough without tiring the nostalgic device of overly alluding to the original. The sequel works for its “relatable and well-developed characters, charismatic actors to play them and a story that works pretty damn well as an entertaining diversion.” And unlike most “cynical nostalgia-baiting films”, Rosza admires how the youth can take something from it, as not only is there original Jumanji adult fans in the audience but also their children, their grandchildren, as well as godchildren.
When you watch the Jumanji sequel, the theater may be barely filled. But make sure to watch it with an open mind, see what you can take from it, and maybe make an IMDB movie review if you so choose.