Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Director: Jake Kasdan
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Nick Jones
Runtime: 120 mins
Sorry, nostalgia junkies. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”, the sequel to the popular 1995 movie about a mystical board game, is an excruciating two hours of mental torture.
In the original, which starred a perfect Robin Williams, a magical game sends herds of violent wild animals into a small town – and two kids have to win challenges to get their normal lives back. Sure, that movie was unnecessarily dark and emotionally uninvolving, but it’s “Casablanca” next to this, in which four “Breakfast Club” stereotypes are sucked into a Nintendo-like game system and confronted with the perils of awkward flirting.
“Welcome to the Jungle” emulates a role-playing game, with the kids becoming various characters and altogether different physical people. The lanky geek is now Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Dr. Smolder Bravestone; the dumb jock transforms into Kevin Hart’s Moose Finbar; the shy girl turns into Karen Gillan’s Ruby Roundhouse; and the vain popular chick gets saddled with Dr. Shelly Oberon, played by lovable schmuck Jack Black.
The quartet has to contend with a baddie called Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale), who has stolen a green jewel that, we’re told, keeps the land of Jumanji chugging along. All the kids need to do is return the jewel to its rightful spot, yell “Jumanji!” and head home to the burbs. Easier than farting!
While this “Jumanji” overflows with moronic character names and wisecracks about texting, it comes up oddly short on, um, animals. At one point, Black is eaten by hippo, and there are some cheetahs and the occasional snake cameo, but for the most part, the villains here are humans — angry guards, motorcyclists and marketplace brawlers. Who gives? We didn’t wait all these years to see some kids escape a South American drug cartel; we’re here for “Gorillas Gone Wild!” Where the original had kickass stampedes of elephants, rhinos and zebras galore, “Welcome to the Jungle” seems to have blown the budget on its cast, who are trapped in a boring, low-stakes plot.
Who’s the audience for this movie? It’s not smart, scary or funny enough for adults and older teens, and it’s inappropriate for young kids. In one especially yucky moment, Jack Black, who, remember, has the mind of a teenage girl, jokes about getting an erection after meeting Nick Jonas, who plays another character stuck in “Jumanji”. It’s pretty gross.
Instead of wasting your time and cash, give the original film a second glance. That movie is a reminder that making a solid adventure flick involves more than simply slapping some likable celebs and a well-known brand together.