×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’

Four teenagers turn into Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan in a 'Jumanji' sequel that strands them in a jungle of no fun.

Director:
Jake Kasdan
With:
Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Bobby Cannavale, Nick Jonas, Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Ser’Darius Blain, Morgan Turner.
Release Date:
Dec 20, 2017

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2283362/

When “Jumanji” came out, in 1995, one’s first impulse was to consign it to the increasingly overstuffed file marked “Junky Cheeseball Robin Williams Movies.” The film’s one true distinction was its jungle beasts. The lions and monkeys and elephants and rhinos and zebras, rampaging through a kitchen, were brought to life through the then-novel miracle of digital imagery; this was two years after “Jurassic Park,” but the technology still felt bold. As an adventure, “Jumanji” was deluxe magical trash, but its creatures, so fearsomely alive, seemed to be part of some brave new menagerie.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is just trash, with nothing magical about it. A quartet of high-school kids gets sucked into a video-game-console update of the Jumanji board game, landing in the most generic of jungles — and that’s where they stay, except for one detour into the most generic of fake Middle Eastern bazaars. Whatever the rules of this particular game, they remain mostly unexplained and largely beside the point. It’s like watching the lamest Indiana Jones sequel ever imagined, minus Indiana Jones.

In his place, our four heroes morph into video-game avatars played by a tossed salad of movie stars, who don’t generate adventure-comedy chemistry so much as they do loudly clashing styles of showboating. The film’s notion of wit is to have Spencer (Alex Wolff), a stringbean gamer, metamorphose into an explorer-archaeologist played by Dwayne Johnson, who flinches and says “Oy vey!” like the nerd he still is inside. If Johnson, and the film’s script, had truly run with this idea, it might have been funny, but Johnson, for the most part, is just Johnson: too committed to his image to tweak it much.

One of the other kids is a hulking jock nicknamed “The Refrigerator” (Ser’Darius Blain), and the wears-out-its-welcome-in-10-seconds joke is that he gets turned into a zoologist played by Kevin Hart, thereby losing several feet of height. The other two high schoolers are female, so it may seem odd that one of them, Bethany (Madison Iseman), turns into a cryptographer played by Jack Black, but once you’ve seen Black, in tweedy hunter’s garb and big round spectacles, do his mincing impersonation of a high-school trollop (very Meanest Girl of 2003), it no longer seems odd, just vaguely embarrassing. The other girl, Martha (Morgan Turner), becomes Ruby Roundhouse, a commando in a halter top played by the charming Karen Gillan, who winds up playing straight woman to the three walking icons of paycheck shtick.

In “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” each of the characters has a trio of bars tattooed on his or her wrist, which means that in the game universe of Jumanji they all get three lives. Jack Black is eaten, in one very quick bite, by a gnashing hippo, and moments later — voilà! — he pops down from the sky. Johnson gets tossed off a cliff, then pops down as well. Hart eats pound cake and explodes (for some reason), and so on. Gillan, in the meantime, does some fight-dancing to Big Mountain’s reggae version of “Baby, I Love Your Way.” Did I mention that the four are trying to wrest a giant glowing emerald from the movie’s bad guy — Bobby Cannavale, with no role to play — so that they can restore it to the forehead of the looming mountain sculpted into a jaguar?

Excitement! Suspense! Childlike innocence! Ingeniously staged action set pieces! These are a few of the things you will not find, anywhere, in “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” The one performer in the film who establishes his own relaxed rhythm, and stays in it, is Nick Jonas, proving once again that he’s got quick-draw acting chops. The movie has snakes and a crocodile pit and a scorpion slithering out of Bobby Cannavale’s mouth. It’s supposed to be a video-ized board game come to life, but really, it’s just a bored game.

Film Review: 'Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle'

Reviewed at AMC Lincoln Square, New York, Dec. 6, 2017. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 119 MIN.

Production: A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Columbia Pictures, Matt Tolmach Productions, Radar Pictures, Seven Bucks Productions prod. Producers: Ted Field, Matt Tolmach, William Tietler, Mike Weber. Executive producers: Dany Garcia, David B. Householter, Jake Kasdan.

Crew: Director: Jake Kasdan. Screenplay: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg. Camera (color, widescreen): Gyula Pados. Editors: Steve Edwards, Mark Helfrich.

With: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Bobby Cannavale, Nick Jonas, Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Ser’Darius Blain, Morgan Turner.

More Film

  • Oscar OScars Placeholder

    Cinematographers Praise Academy Reversal: 'We Thank You for Your Show of Respect'

    Cinematographers who fought the decision to curtail four Oscar presentations have praised the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for reversing the exclusions. “We thank you for your show of respect for the hard-working members of the film community, whose dedication and exceptional talents deserve the public recognition this reversal now allows them to enjoy,” [...]

  • Peter Parker and Miles Morales in

    'Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse' Colored Outside the Lines

    The well-worn superhero genre and one of its best-known icons are unlikely vehicles for creating a visually fresh animated feature. But Sony Pictures Animation’s work on the Oscar-nominated animated feature “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” shows throwing out the rule book and letting everyone play in the creative sandbox can pay off big. “I think we [...]

  • Denis Villeneuve

    Denis Villeneuve's 'Dune' Gets November 2020 Release Date

    Warner Bros. has scheduled Legendary’s science-fiction tentpole “Dune” for a Nov. 20, 2020, release in 3D and Imax. “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa is in negotiations to join the “Dune” reboot with Timothee Chalamet, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Ferguson, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac, and Zendaya. Production is expected to launch in the spring [...]

  • James Bond Spectre

    Bond 25 Moved Back Two Months to April 2020

    James Bond will arrive two months later than planned as MGM moved back the release date on the untitled Bond 25 movie from Feb. 14 to April 8, 2020 — a Wednesday before the start of Easter weekend. It’s the second delay for Bond 25. MGM and Eon originally announced in 2017 that the film [...]

  • Fast and Furious 8

    'Fast and Furious 9' Release Date Pushed Back Six Weeks

    Universal Pictures has shifted “Fast and Furious 9” back six weeks from April 10 to May 22, 2020 — the start of the Memorial Day weekend. It’s the second backwards shift for the title. In 2017, Universal moved the film back a year from April 19, 2019, to April 10, 2020. Both dates fall on [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    'Alita' Inching Past 'Lego Movie 2' at Presidents Day Weekend Box Office

    James Cameron’s “Alita: Battle Angel” has a slight edge over “The Lego Movie 2” in a tight race for domestic box office supremacy during Presidents Day weekend. Both are aiming for about $27 million, early estimates showed on Friday. More Reviews Film Review: 'Great Bear Rainforest' London Theater Review: 'The American Clock' The two titles [...]

  • Ludwig Goransson Black Panther Composer

    Complete Guide to This Year's Oscar-Nominated Scores

    Unlike the song category, it’s impossible to predict the winner from this year’s quintet of original-score nominees. It’s almost anyone’s game. Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson spent a month in Africa recording unusual drums, flutes and vocals, then adding them to a massive London orchestra and choir to create a unique soundscape for the fictional land [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content