Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a serviceable sequel with a surprising amount of risqué content. The primary gag is that horny, self-centered teenagers are turned into adult characters; who are complete physical opposites. The sexual innuendo is the thrust of all the humor, with the adventure aspect playing a distant second fiddle. I thought the film was hilarious, but certainly didn’t capture the wonder of the original. It’s hard to surpass Robin Williams. His Alan Parrish gets a slight nod, but not much else.
Four stereotypical high school teens are stuck, for various reasons, in detention. Assigned to clean out an old warehouse, they come upon a dusty old video game system on a shelf. When the teens start to play, they are magically drawn into the game and transformed into their selected avatars. Shy nerd Spencer (Alex Wolff) becomes muscled explorer, Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson). Football jock Fridge Johnson (Ser’Darius Blain) is cut down to the diminutive zoologist, Moose Finbar(Kevin Hart). Bethany (Madison Iseman), the head cheerleader and local Instagram queen, switches sexes into rotund cartographer, Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black). Rounding out the gang is the demure Martha (Morgan Tenure), who finds herself as dance-fighting vixen, Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). The teens must work together to beat the game, or risk a permanent game over.
Karen Gillan’s scanty outfit raised eyebrows when initial footage was released. It’s all part of the provocative gags where a modest girl has to play an ass-kicking, sexually objectified woman. The reverse is true for Jack Black. His portrayal of a snobby teenage girl in a middle-aged, fat guy’s body is knockdown funny. The interaction and reactions of these two characters are, by far, the most entertaining part of the film. They elicit laughs a plenty, but it’s far less innocent than the original. Jumanji was the definition of a family film. The idea of penis jokes in that story is unthinkable. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle skews more suggestively to say the least.
There needed to be a bit more creativity with the visual effects and action scenes. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is effects laden, but it’s all so familiar and humdrum. There’s no creature or monster that sticks out. The wildlife in general is pretty lackluster. One of my favorite parts of the original was the mischievous monkeys. I was stunned they weren’t in this movie, along with much of the animal characters from the first. My thought is that director/writer Jake Kasdan didn’t see their value. His story is about the teenagers getting over themselves for the greater good. The jungle is just a setting. It’s too bad. This film would have been so much better if the wildlife and plants were given more character.
From Sony Pictures, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is very funny. The humor alone warrants viewing. The cast, both young and old, are solid in their performances. My primary issue is that it’s not “Jumanji” enough. Give me less penis jokes and more monkeys, vines, lethal insects, the whole damn zoo. I also thought that Bobby Cannavale was wasted as the villain. He needed more to do and barely registers on screen. If only he had a few naughty monkeys to liven things up.