Jumanji Welcome To The Jungle review: Some 22 years after the release of the original, Jake Kasdan unites a motley crew of characters to take us back to Jumanji.

Jumanji Welcome To The Jungle review by Paul Heath.

Jumanji Welcome To The Jungle review
Jumanji Welcome To The Jungle review

Firing into cinemas this weekend in UK-wide previews is Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle, the sequel/ slight reboot to the 1990s blockbuster led by the late, great Robin Williams. History, and indeed the former movie, is preserved here adequately in a new, exciting tale from screenwriters Jake Kasdan, Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner, Erik Sommers, and Chris McKenna who have managed to reflect the joys of the original movie and build a new one, albeit with a slightly meta comedic spin on proceedings.

The game has evolved. The new movie picks up very much where things were left off, in the mid-1990s where the legendary game of Jumanji is discovered, washed up on a beach somewhere in America. The teenager who finds the mysterious game takes it back home and parks it on a shelf, only to find a few hours later that it has it has morphed into some sort of video game. Cut to the rumblings of that all-familiar jungle drum sound so familiar from the first movie, closely followed by a strange and growingly intense glowing from within the console.

Fast-forward twenty years to the present day and a regular high school where four misfit teenagers, Spencer, Bethany, Fridge, and Martha, find themselves in detention for a variety of indiscretions. They are charged with cleaning out the school’s basement where they accidentally come across the dusty Jumanji video game system, so decide to fire it up and have a go. Of course, with this being no ordinary console, the thing sucks all of them inside, and the four suddenly find themselves as avatars within the jungle-set game. The nerdy Spencer is transformed into the 6 foot-five archaeologist and explorer Dr. Xander Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Fridge becomes the somewhat shorter Franklin “Moose” Finbar (Kevin Hart), a zoologist and weapons specialist, Matha, a shy and retiring type becomes ‘hot’ commando Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), while the young, attractive and totally shallow Bethany morphs into Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black), a cartographer and cryptographer.

Jumanji Welcome To The Jungle review
Jumanji Welcome To The Jungle review

Deeply confused by their new surroundings, the four soon discover that they have to undertake a mission to free themselves from the game. This involves overcoming hostile terrain, vicious creatures, and gigantic wild animals, as well as the villainous John Hardin (Bobby Cannavale), the antagonist of the Jumanji video game. What follows is nearly two hours of light-hearted fun as the group endeavour to complete their journey through this new world trying not to lose the three lies they have each been given, which, if expired, sees them trapped inside the game forever.

From the off, it’s apparent that Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is going to be a lot of fun. The film assures the viewer immediately that the film is very much in safe hands and that it will be respectful to what has come before, but will absolutely take things to the next level in terms of a new experience. It’s a completely different movie in tone, but just about manages to stay within the lines of a total parody. Think along the lines of the 21 Jump Street movies in terms of how they managed to take an older property and build upon it in terms of enjoyment, as well as use a similar style of humour, which Chris Miller and Phil Lord delivered with such expertise.

The screenwriters which, granted there are a few, have managed to pay particular attention to detail throughout. There’s a gentle nod to Robin Williams’ character from the original,  which was lovely to see, but this new set-up is perfect, and also manages to bring back the body-swap genre that was so popular back in the 1980s and early 90s.

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The success of pulling that off, of course, is largely down to the performances, and the main four characters at the center of the story pull off their characters extremely well. Particular stand-outs are Kevin Hart and Jack Black whose roles ask the most from them, but equally Karren Gillan and Dwayne Johnson also deliver in spades.

Kasdan, who has steadily grown a C.V. with some quality comedy fare including Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Bad Teacher, and Sex Tape, delivers the funnies with this too, and there are many laugh-out-loud moments during Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle. He also shows promise as a large tentpole director too, as this grand affair asks a lot from all involved, and it largely delivers.

Sure, there are some questionable CGI sequences in there and a quite few plot holes, but who was I to let that spoil my fun as I feasted upon what was on offer. Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is an absolute blast from start to finish. A totally inventive, hilarious ride and a wonderful, exciting action adventure which not only manages to equal the quality of the original but wants to and indeed almost surpasses it. One of the best popcorn blockbusters of the year.

Jumanji Welcome To The Jungle review by Paul Heath, December 2017.

Jumanji Welcome To The Jungle is released in cinemas on December 20th 2017. Previews take place in the UK on 9th and 10th December.

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Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle