It’s not a remake. It’s not a reboot. It’s not a sequel. It’s not really any of those buzzwords that make people cringe when Hollywood tries to push some regurgitated BS on us. Here’s the deal: the game of Jumanji just wants to be played, it will do anything to make that happen, and it found a new group of unsuspecting kids named Spencer, Bethany, Fridge, Martha and Alex to do it and luckily, we got to go along for the ride.
First off, if you’re wondering where Jack Black has been, wonder no more. Aside from “Kung Fu Panda”, he’s been relatively quiet with roles in front of the camera, but goodness what a return! Is he believable as a teenage girl named Bethany? Yes… almost frighteningly so. Did he sink to mimicking stereotypes of effeminate or gay men in an effort to act more feminine? No, and that was not only impressive, but a huge relief as some straight male actors may not have been able to pull that off with as much grace and sensitivity as Black did.
‘Ok, but what about the ACTION?’ you’re asking. IT WAS AWESOME. Hungry Hippos, rumbling Rhinos, bike chases, daring stunts, it had it all. And it was all on a backdrop of the visually stunning scenery of Hawaii where much of the film was shot. And yes, it was exciting enough to keep adults entertained, but tame enough so that you can take the kids and tweens without worry.
A worry for some parents, however, might come in the dialogue and certain situations. There isn’t a whole lot to be concerned about, but going back to young Bethany suddenly being in the body of a man, you can imagine that there’s certain things she wants to talk about that weren’t there before.
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is a welcome bit of fantasy and silliness. It retains the charm of the original while taking the franchise in a completely different direction and giving video game lovers and those who love RPGs a nod to the medium we love so much. There are some truly great one-liners, believable chemistry, great dance moves, delicious cake and terrible margaritas. As someone who saw the 1995 original in theaters, then bought the VHS tape with my own money in 1996, and misses Robin Williams every day, I give this movie my stamp of approval.