An enjoyably self-aware blockbuster and probably the best video game movie to come out period, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is that special kind of stupid we all know and love; rebooting a beloved family film into a distinctly separate entity which is part action, part comedy, and part ‘The Rock’ fan fiction.
The film follows four high school students who are sucked into the world of Jumanji; now a retro video game complete with levels, one-note characters and multiple lives till game over. Already this concept allows much more opportunity for strong humor and exciting action than a straight reboot could, never attempting to outdo Robin Williams original and instead choosing to bring the new characters right into the jungle from the start. The very concept of a teenage nerd in the Adonis body of Dwayne Johnson or a ditzy blonde becoming Jack Black is enough to build a strong comedy on yet I’m glad to say the film is more than just one note, creating a series of entertaining set pieces that rarely falter thanks to the comedic pairing of its stars and the fantasy elements of being trapped in a real-life video game. The reunion of Johnson and Kevin Hart is particularly strong, playing against type as a nerd and a jock stuck in the opposite kind of body. No star is taking themselves too seriously, adding to the fun and rewatchability of the film despite its often low-brow humor.
Where the film does fall flat is its use of more cliché cinematic elements; when in the game a lot of the stereotypes carry a strand of self-awareness that makes it excusable but even so the character development for each of our four heroes is so predictable it can often be poisonous for the movie, replacing potential laughs with pure cringe. Despite this the charisma of the stars manages to pull through, leaving only the bookended scenes set in the real world to suffer. The visuals are likewise weak, not terrible but very derivative of a lot of modern cinema; it would be hard to easily identify the film from pictures.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is an exciting family film that harkens back to the high concept, cheesy blockbusters of the nineties. While silly, predictable and often cringe-inducing, its complete embrace of its ludicrous plot and characters makes it at least a memorably fun viewing experience.