During the holiday season, there’s always that one movie that children drag their sulking parents to and then ask for extra butter on their popcorn while adult innuendos fly over their heads and their parents’ sulks turn into smiles.
[Full disclosure: The Root attended a press junket where travel and hotel lodging was paid for by Sony Pictures.]
That’s exactly what Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle accomplishes with a star-studded cast that includes Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan. But that’s not to say the movie doesn’t have its weak points—in the form of Nick Jonas and Bobby Cannavale.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is billed as a sequel to the original film starring the late Robin Williams, but it’s a tale all its own, one that pays homage to the original. Director Jake Kasdan’s Welcome to the Jungle takes a group of high schoolers who end up in detention à la the Breakfast Club and throws them into a video game. With the rich fauna of Hawaii, where Welcome to the Jungle was filmed, as its backdrop, the movie has laughs for every age group when Hart, Black and Gillan are transformed into the avatars the students used while playing. With their new “talents,” they’re given the challenge of completing the game in order to get back to the real world.
Spencer (Alex Wolff)—a thin, nerdy gamer who lacks self-confidence—is transformed into an explorer-archaeologist, Dr. Smolder Bravestone, played by Johnson. “The Refrigerator” (Ser’Darius Blain) turns into diminutive zoologist Franklin “Moose” Finbar, played by Hart, who isn’t exactly happy with his lack of height and muscles. Bethany (Madison Iseman) turns into Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon, a cryptographer played by Black, who, in the process of discovering his new penis, provides most of the adult humor in the movie. And then there’s Martha (Morgan Turner), who is transformed into the female version of Indiana Jones when she becomes Ruby Roundhouse, played by Gillan.
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As the cast of characters attempt to adjust to their new abilities while trying to escape the jungle, they come across Jonas, who plays Alex, a teenager who has been stuck in the game for quite some time; he and Cannavale as the evil Van Pelt provide most of the dullest moments of the film. It isn’t so much the characters as it is the lack of emotion behind them. Jonas’ Alex is about as bland as his real-life music, and Cannavale’s talents aren’t put on full display with him as a villain.
Many people probably wonder why a sequel to Jumanji was necessary, but when you put Johnson, Black, Gillan and Hart together in a film that leaves you laughing, why not? Would Robin Williams approve? We’ll never know, but after you’ve wrapped Christmas gifts and dealt with family gatherings, a few cheesy laughs are always a welcome experience.